By: Cara Mossington, White Glove Rochester Realtor
I met Charletta (Dr. Dennis) while pricing her multimillion-dollar home in Rochester a while back when she was contemplating selling. I enjoy her so much, that truthfully, I hope she stays in Rochester despite her thoughts of moving away. Relationships before transactions is what helps my soul and business flourish. While having breakfast to catch up, she was gracious with me as my curious mind riddled her with questions about her life. Her life’s story is so profound, I’m sharing just a glimpse into it here.
Imagine growing up in the inner city surrounded by drugs, violence, and poverty with a father in prison and finding yourself pregnant at the age of 14. You probably can’t, and neither can I. If you met Charletta today on your child’s soccer field, you would never know how much this woman has overcome in her life as today she is a prestigious doctor living on a large estate in Rochester. Where did the power come from to achieve so much with so very little? “From within”, she will quickly tell you. This humble woman thinks she was born with a hard work ethic and the inability to be complacent. Did a healthy upbringing, parents with good jobs, and going to the best high school in town get her there? Not a bit. Hard work, encouragement from a stranger, and a will to fight for what she wanted was her path.
According to the world she is a “rags to riches story”. Monetarily she’s made it, and all her neighbors can see that, but she’s not just another pretty Rochester affluent lady. She is something special and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to share a smidge of her story.
When asked if she felt unsafe as a child, her answer was no. Why? Because that was all she knew, it was her normal. It wasn’t until after she had her son at 15 that she knew she wanted out for them both. After graduating from high school, a year early, she found herself working at White Castle full time thankful for the full benefits for her and her son. While working, 2 EMTs came in and started telling her about a class to become an EMT. Now 19 with a second child, she took them up on it. While there and realizing she didn’t want to be an EMT after having to help a crew carry a 400 lb man on a stretcher, she decided to become a medical assistant. While working at Henry Ford, the doctors encouraged her to become an RN.
She points to two large events that propelled her forward in ultimately becoming the Director of Psychiatry for the Michigan Department of Corrections and now a Medical Director.
What were those two events? The first one was while she was working as a medical assistant, getting all A’s in nursing school. A big-time doctor at Henry Ford Hospital looked at her report card and said, “You are on your way to medical school.” The seed was planted. The second event was when, after finding out that she wanted to become a doctor, two people in positions of power discouraged her which made her want to fight even harder to prove them wrong. One was a woman at the hospital that told her “I don’t know if that is a possibility.” and another was a male professor who told her “It’s highly unlikely that you will become a physician.” The ugliness of people discouraging a child is sickening, but she used that ugliness to feed the fire in her belly to become a top doctor.
She went on to complete 4 years of medical school, 4 years of a psychiatry residency, and a one-year forensic psychiatry fellowship. Without any financial help from family, all these educational achievements transpired, in part, because that one person spoke kind and encouraging words.
Her service to our community involves trying to fix mental health issues and a job which entails knowing more about criminals than most of us can even bear reading about in the paper. Fascinating as she has a father in prison who has encouraged her throughout her life, with whom she is extremely close to today.
My biggest breakfast takeaway, other than deep respect and awe of this woman, is the power in encouraging one another. She was encouraged by her father and that one doctor who saw her hard work and encouraged her. If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it.