Her father's 33-year career inspired her to join the Army, and her West Pointer brother encouraged her to attend the newly integrated U.S. Military Academy.
But it was Mr. Spock, the science officer on the starship Enterprise, who inspired her to go into biology.
"I thought he was really cool," she told Army Times in a Feb. 22 interview. "Oh my gosh, I wanted to be a Vulcan. And I wanted to be a scientist."
West, a career family medicine doctor and dermatologist who boasts airborne and air assault qualifications, became the 44th Army Surgeon General in December 2015. She is the first black female lieutenant general in the Army and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from West Point.
She sat down with Army Times during Black History Month to talk about her journey. Questions and answered have been edited for brevity.
Lt. Gen. Nadja West hands a coin to Spc. Dan'l Hopkins, of the 1st Cavalry Division, during her visit to Fort Hood, Texas, on May 5, 2016. West became the Army surgeon general in December 2015.
Photo Credit: Kelby Wingert/Army
Q: What put you on your path to becoming the first black, female lieutenant general?
A: I joined the Army because I come from a military family. I kind of grew up eating, drinking, breathing, living Army. My dad was in — he joined the Army in 1939, when the Army was segregated, and stayed in for 33 years.
Nine of my siblings were serving. I'm the youngest, so to me it was just something I couldn't wait to do. I knew I would be serving in some capacity in the military.