Welcome to the sixth post in our series Voices from #BlackWomenInMedicine. To learn more about our mission to support Black women in medicine, we encourage you to read our first blog post in the series as well as part two, part three , part four and part five. Black female doctors represent only 2% of physicians.1 It is our hope that by sharing stories, perspectives and wisdom from this 2%, we will inspire change so that underrepresented minorities can follow in their footsteps of making medicine their career. We also hope this blog series brings an invigorated appreciation for Black female physicians who have made it their lives’ work to improve the health of others, regardless of race. #PathTwitter has a unique and strong presence on the web and we hope you will take the opportunity to share this blog post and amplify these voices while reflecting on how you can bring equality to medicine.
We’d like to introduce you to our guest blogger, Dr. Evi Abada (@EviAbadaMD). Dr. Abada is a third year anatomic and clinical pathology resident physician at the Wayne State University School of Medicine/Detroit Medical Center in Michigan. She was recently honored as one of 40 under Forty 2020 honorees by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and has also been elected to serve on the ASCP’s resident’s council. She also currently serves on the leadership team of 500 Women Scientists, an organization working to make science open, inclusive and accessible. This is her story.
I am a foreign medical graduate and completed my medical education at the University of Benin College of Medicine in Nigeria. Choosing medicine as a profession was relatively easy, I would say. Back in my home country, parents play a huge role in helping a child decide what career paths they should take. So, back then, if you were really good in math, you would be encouraged to go study engineering. If you were good in the sciences, you would be nudged towards medicine. If you were considered quite talkative, you would be steered towards law, and if you were good with numbers and finances, they would sort of nudge you in the line of accounting or business administration. So, for me, I have always been fascinated with science and had that curiosity to learn more about biology and disease causation. Therefore, with the guidance of my parents, it was easy to choose a career path in medicine and my family have always been supportive of my career choice. Pathology as a specialty for me had more to do with fascination with histology. I remember thinking in medical school that pathologists were “magicians.” Like, how could anyone look at a slide of beautiful pictures under the microscope and tell the difference between disease processes? That fascination with looking at histology slides and sort of matching it to textbook descriptions of diseases was what made pathology “it” for me.
As a foreign-trained medical graduate, I would say unlike my colleagues who completed their medical education in the United States, I am relatively new to the discrimination in medicine against Black women. One thing I do know for sure is that it exists. When I walk into a room, I know that people are going to first judge me based on how I look before paying attention to whatever it is I bring to the table. However, because I know this as a fact, I make sure I am mentally prepared to deal with such instances. In addition, I have gotten to that point in my life and career where I no longer take any of those things to heart. I work hard at being good and exceptional at whatever I do, and I have learned that most times your excellence will do the speaking for you. So, to every Black woman in medicine or intending to pursue medicine, keep being great and exceptional at what you do. No one can deny true success when it’s obvious.
Data from multiple sources estimate that foreign-trained physicians constitute between 22-29% of the physician work force in the United States. Therefore, we cannot overemphasize the critical role of this demographic to our healthcare system. However, as a foreign-trained physician, it can be incredibly frustrating and challenging to find your space in an underrepresented community. As a Black woman in medicine, I draw a great deal of support from my family, who are incredibly proud of what I have been able to accomplish. In addition, I have a small community of physicians, who look like me and share my experiences, and we have been like a sounding board for one another. Plus, my training institution has a diverse faculty, many of which are very supportive of my career growth.
Under representation is still a huge problem in medicine and unfortunately, that representation is even more abysmal in pathology. The quote by Marian Wright Edelman, “you can’t be what you can’t see” clearly fits into this narrative. People tend to identify with stories, experiences, examples or leaders that have something in common with them. To change the diversity problem in medicine in general, and pathology in particular, would require a multi-disciplinary approach from all stakeholders. We’ve got to do more as a specialty in making our presence more visible, especially in regard to medical school education. We need to be more intentional in our efforts in making sure diverse communities are represented in our recruitment activities which should match the communities being served. In addition, we need to do a better job of amplifying the voices of minority groups/demographics in medicine, and especially in pathology. One thing I know that makes a huge difference between successful people or communities from unsuccessful ones is access to opportunities. Therefore, we also need to do better in making sure marginalized communities have access to equitable (not equal) opportunities that would make it easier to pursue a career in medicine.
We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Dr. Evi Abada for talking with us. To other Black women in medicine, we’d like to share your story in our Voices from #BlackWomenInMedicine series. Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Twitter at @instapathbio. Stay tuned as we continue this series in the coming weeks.
Built on the vision of better patient outcomes, Instapath was founded in 2017 by engineers and scientists to enable patients to immediately know their cancer diagnosis. Our team made it our mission to develop fast and easy digital pathology technology so diagnosis can be made in minutes instead of days. To learn more about Instapath and our technology, visit https://instapathbio.com/tech/ or contact us at email@example.com.