A Black Woman in Medicine: Another Perspective

Prior to university, I had attended schools with very significant numbers of Black people. At the very least the numbers of Black students had made up at least 30% of the whole cohort. You can imagine my surprise when I first stepped into the lecture theatre at medical school and I first noticed the lack of Black faces. Attending university in London, a very diverse city, led me to have a disillusioned expectation that medical school would be similar to my previous experiences but that has not been the case.



Before university, race and racism was something I was obviously aware of but it was not at the forefront of my mind. Experiencing this change in environment contributed to my naivety about some racial issues being rapidly dissolved. Sometimes I’m not too sure if it’s related to being in medical school specifically, or just generally growing up, but I am definitely a lot more aware of the issues that are affecting Black women in today’s society. The saying that ignorance is bliss is very valid sometimes - I feel that there has been a big burden and feeling of exhaustion associated with being aware of racism and the negative experiences Black women face. In this blog post, I aim to share some of my thoughts on the points that Bimpe has raised on this topic.


The Need for Black Women But Also A Lack Of Acknowledgement

From the statistics we already know that there is underrepresentation of Black people in medicine. It is obvious that there is a need for more Black women in healthcare, especially with the appalling statistics regarding maternal mortality. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough Black medical students or Black doctors to even begin to improve the experiences of Black women in the healthcare system.


For the few Black women that are in medicine, the experience is not all warm and flowery. It’s important to look at the lack of acknowledgement and support for Black women because when I see opportunities and funding for Black students, they often tend to be targeted towards Black men. Black men are most definitely underrepresented too but it doesn’t mean that Black women don’t also need the support. This results in many Black women missing certain opportunities or having to work even harder to reach the same destinations. I’m sure many of us have had our parents tell us that we have to work hard and face our books. The idea of having to work twice as hard because of the intersection between racism and sexism is often very overwhelming to me. Sometimes I just want to relax. However, I feel that Black women aren’t afforded the opportunity to simply cruise through life, make their mistakes and bounce back.


It’s hard for us to feel acknowledged when spaces never seem to be catered to us. I’ve seen many Black medical students complaining about surgical caps not fitting over their hair, having to change their hairstyles for this specific reason and even being put off a career in surgery. This is an issue that makes Black women feel very unwelcome and it’s very disheartening to hear.


The Need to Serve and Give Back

From my observations, Black women always seem to be at the forefront of activities that involve giving back to the community. I believe this stems from the expectation of Black women to fulfil the role as homemakers and peacekeepers. After committing time to different outreach initiatives I’ve found that over time it can become very draining. The fact that the impact of school outreach and widening participation schemes is not immediately obvious can make it seem like your efforts are in vain. Additionally, medicine is a career that is focused on serving patients and doing good. This creates further pressure to support the community as a Black woman in medicine. This creates an added responsibility to give, give, give. This is not to say that it’s all negative, doing outreach work can honestly be very fulfilling.


For anyone that is feeling discouraged, I would like to acknowledge that it can be extremely tiring trying to combat all of the issues in this world. It seems that every single day there is a negative event in the news that needs to be dealt with. Stick to a few problems that you feel passionate about and do whatever is in your capacity to solve them.


See this as a reminder to do what you can, set boundaries for yourself and be a tiny bit selfish once in a while. (I still need to work on taking my own advice)



The Need to Overthink

Overthinking is a big issue that has been worsened with the increased use of social media in our generation. Other people’s lives and achievements are so accessible to us making it a lot easier to compare ourselves and overthink minor issues.


I personally am not much of an overthinker, or at least I actively try not to be. This is not to say that I never experience self-doubt, however, I think I’ve found ways to deal with it. Whenever I catch myself falling into the trap of overthinking I quickly remind myself to think of the worst case scenario and get comfortable with it. Will I fall down if the worst possible outcome occurs? No. Nine times out of ten the worst case scenario does not even happen so it really helps me to put things into perspective that way. This can be quite an extreme strategy. Thinking of the worst outcome can be very demotivating so I’m not sure if this is the ideal way to manage overthinking. It’s just the strategy that works best for me.


I’m definitely more of a planner. I love organisation, planning and structure but if there’s one thing that this year has taught me it’s that I can’t always be in control of absolutely everything - I didn’t plan for there to be a pandemic. I’ve had to become more relaxed and flexible with planning out my life. A lot of the successful Black women that inspire me are way ahead of me in their careers. I do find that I have to remind myself frequently that I am only twenty years old and have my whole life ahead of me. There’s no need for me to put excessive amounts of pressure on myself. I really hope this can help anyone who’s struggling with the pressure to achieve certain goals or dealing with self-doubt and overthinking.


There are so many other issues to discuss regarding the experiences of Black women in general and in medicine specifically. I hope through this platform we can begin to tackle some of these problems. To end on a more positive note, here’s a quote that keeps me going:


“Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” - Ella Fitzgerald

Written by: Honey Ajisefini (Co-founder of The Black & Forth Platform)

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