Originally from Wichita Falls, Texas, Zackary Brown is currently a second year Pediatric Physician Resident at Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital in New York City.

Do you remember when you first began to stutter?

The better question is, “do I remember a time that I did NOT stutter?” For as long as I can remember, I have always had a stutter and it was not a subtle stutter that could be overlooked and/or ignored. With my family moving around a lot, my stutter often times made for awkward introductions as I would stutter with my name and where I was originally from.

Does it run in your family? Who else stutters?

Pronunciation concerns run in my family, but fluency concerns do not run in my family. I often times hear a family member say, “I used to stutter as a kid” but no one that I know still has a persistent stutter to this day.

Did you seek treatment? Did it help?

I was in speech therapy from the earliest age through my freshmen year of high school. I noticed that speech therapy, in my early years, was surrounded around the concept of “speak slower” as a “fix” to my stutter. It caused a lot of frustration for me throughout my middle school years, because it felt like a simplification to a complex issue that I was experiencing. I often times would say “if my stutter could be fixed by just speaking slower, I wouldn’t be stuttering right now.” Because of this frustration, I opted out of speech therapy in high school. I decided to own my stutter and become confident with my speech through my own ways. In a sense, speech therapy did help me with my pronunciation, but in terms of fluency I had to learn how to navigate the nuances of my stutter on my own.

Tell us about your experience with stuttering as a child.

As a child, it always felt as though my stutter was a lingering chip on my shoulder. Moments that felt simple for others, would be the spark to a panic attack for me. I would learn to find maneuvers to avoid group introductions, reading aloud or public speaking. The words “so introduce yourself,” as I stood in front of a new classroom would trigger intense anxiety, because I knew that my stutter would now become the center of attention. Hearing people say “you don’t know your name?” when you begin to stutter on your name, was a commonplace experience for me as a child. Luckily, I had an amazing support system at home that instilled a sense of confidence, self-worth and perseverance into me that allowed me to see myself as a child with a stutter and not as a stuttering child.

Has your stuttering gotten worse or better since you were younger? How?

That’s a tough question. I would say that my stutter has relatively been the same over the years. What I think has improved is my confidence when dealing with my stutter. I have learned that my stutter does not define my abilities, success and personality; rather my stutter is another aspect of my life. With this growth in confidence and introspection, I have learned how to embrace and take control of my stutter in a way that allowed me to lead with my personality rather than with the fear of my stutter.

How does stuttering affect you in your career?

Being a pediatrician, you realize the role that communication has in every aspect of your career; whether that is garnering the trust of your family, vocalizing your thoughts, explaining diagnoses and/or just building rapport with your colleagues and families. In many ways, my stutter has a role in every aspect of my career. My biggest fear, entering into medicine, was the impact that my stutter would have on my patient encounters. In fact, the impact of my stutter was the premise of my personal statement when applying to residency. I made it the subject of my personal statement, because the thing that I feared most would turn out to be the very thing that allowed me to break down communication barriers and made me more relatable to my patients and families.

How is your stuttering today? What do you do to control or manage it, if anything?

My stuttering today is still very present and varies with my emotions, stressors and situations. I have grown to have confidence in my voice, but I would be disingenuous if I said that I still do not have many moments of self-doubt, insecurities and fear surrounding my stutter. I think what I learned most when managing my stutter is to give myself grace and patience. My stutter does not define or dictate the validity and impact of my voice. When I give myself grace to stutter, Irealize that my confidence carries my voice through any room, even if it may take a little longer than the next person.

What are the biggest challenges stuttering has presented to you?

The biggest challenge about stuttering is that it is an insecurity that you cannot hide from the world. While some people can wear make-up to cover a blemish or wear a hat to hide their hair, our voice cannot be hidden unless you choose to be silent. Until your speech is your biggest insecurity, you don’t truly realize how much language is intertwined in the innerworkings of our everyday life. From the minute that you open up your mouth to speak, you hope that the words roll out smoothly but also bracing yourself for the chance that it might not. I’ve overcome many challenges as the first high school graduate in my family, but the biggest challenge to date is the fact that with my stutter I wear my biggest insecurity on my sleeve everyday for the world to see, critic and judge; all while expected to continue socializing and advancing myself and career. To have a stutter, is to be in a constant intrinsic battle with your fear and insecurities, while also battling the external stigma and judgment of the world.

What is your greatest accomplishment with regard to stuttering?

My greatest accomplishment with regard to stuttering is my ability to not let it define or limit my dreams. As a child, I distinctly remember having an internal battle of “how can you be a doctor if you have a stutter?” That was the toughest battle I had to face as a child, because the world around me would validate those fears with the jokes and bullying. At the same time, I was shrouded by affirmations, encouragement and love by my family and friends who believed in me, even in moments I doubted myself. I remember the day that I declined speech therapy at school and I told my mom that I did not want to “fix” my stutter, but I wanted to learn how to embrace it and be confident in it. From that moment on, I poured confidence into myself to not allow my stutter to ever limit my thoughts, and that was the greatest accomplishment in regards to my stutter.

Based upon your experiences, what would you like to tell children who stutter?

To all the children who stutter, I have 3 major things that I have learned and still practice to
this day.

1) Your voice matters just as much as the next child. Whether it takes you 5 seconds or 5 minutes to say it, your voice and your story deserve to be told from your voice. Your most powerful tool will be your voice, so embrace it, love it and share it with the world

2) Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. You will have days that your stutter may be worse than other days, but allow yourself that space to know that it is okay and you deserve to be heard on your worst days, just as much as your best days.

3) Be kind to yourself. Stuttering can give us manyself-disparaging thoughts, but during those moments is when we must lean more into our kind thoughts.

Based upon your experiences, what would you tell parents of children who stutter?

To the parents of children who stutter, there are 3 things that you can do to best support your child who stutters:

1) Practice active listening. It can sometimes feel that the world is impatient and does not have the attention span to listen to your child when they are having a hard time with their speech. So when your child is speaking, actively engage them. Put your phone down, give them eye contact and directly address their concerns.

2) Provide a safe space. It is exhausting for a child to maneuver through a world where they feel judged from the moment that they open their mouth to speak. From the time your child walks out of your door until they return home, they are in a constant intrinsic battle with themselves and/or extrinsic battle with society. So when they get home, provide them with a space to know that their stutter is heard and it is not what defines them. Be a space of grace, nurturing and support.

3) Be supportive. Your support will give your child the confidence that they need to tackle any hurdle that arises on their journey. On the days that they feel most exhausted because of their speech, show them what grace, love and patience look like so that they can carry that with them through life.


I grew up as the oldest of three boys with our mother. I went to 5 middle schools and 4 high schools, and each move presented its own unique challenge because of my stutter. We are a close-knit family and that connection has carried me through each trial.

Hobbies, Interests, Passions:

I have an exploratory spirit that gets excited seeing the world through the lens of different languages, cultures and foods. As a first-generation high school graduate, I realize that I am blessed with the unique purpose to uplift, encourage and support a generation of youth, while also fighting to ensure that each child has a fair and equitable state of living. From founding a scholarship at my high school to starting a free health screening organization to serve underprivileged communities, I live my passion daily both inside and outside of the hospital.


I equate much of my success to the love and support of my family and village. I have spoken on national platforms in regards to mentorship, health disparities and advocacy practices in medicine. I have broken barriers and uplifted many young leaders and doctors who look like me.

From the Spring 2024 Magazine