Why did you want to become a doctor?
I believe my initial desire to be a doctor stemmed from observing my father’s work as a physician while growing up in Ghana. It was clear to me that what he did made a real difference in people’s lives and this experience inspired me to want to pursue a career that allowed me to meaningfully impact people’s lives. What that looked like to me changed over the years and I admit that I considered other career pathways at several points in my life before medical school. I was fortunate to have impactful research experiences in medicine while in college that ultimately convinced me to pursue medicine. I specifically went into pediatrics because I am always inspired by the resiliency and tenacity of children despite at times having very complex and even terminal conditions.
Who encouraged you or mentored you on your way to becoming a doctor?
Several people played an important role in helping me become a doctor, so many that I fear I may not remember all of them. First and foremost, my parents have always been strong advocates for my siblings and me. They worked hard to provide us with opportunities that many others did not have for which I am truly grateful. My older sister was also very instrumental in this journey. The process of applying for medical school is tough and there were many times along the way where I felt it would be easier to pursue a different career. But my sister never allowed me to wallow in my self-doubt and had enough faith for both of us to keep me going. In college, the director of pre-health advising, Lisa Kooperman, was incredibly supportive and saw a lot of potential in me. She was always very kind but also very candid about what I needed to do to be successful. Her guidance throughout the application process was crucial to my success in getting into to medical school. But getting into medical school is really just the beginning and one needs to surround themselves with people who uplift you and really motivate you to keep going. I was very unfortunate to have many people that fell into that category. One example, Dr George Hill, who was the dean of for diversity in medical education, regularly checked in on me and offered his support for seeking various opportunities that would enhance my career. Dr. Amy Fleming, who at the time was the pediatric clerkship director, readily availed her time and provided a safe space during challenging times. During my residency training, I was fortunate to be taught by and work with Drs. Peter Gaskin and Carissa Baker-Smith, both pediatric cardiologists. Drs Gaskin and Baker-Smith, who are African American, really modeled who I wanted to become as a pediatric cardiologist. They were experts in their field who were compassionate clinicians and driven to achieve excellence in everything they did. They were and continue to be exceptional role models for me.
In what way do you think BPOU will benefit utah?
I really believe that we need an organization like BPOU to provide representation for African American physicians in Utah. I was surprised by the number of African American physicians I have come to know work in Utah and frankly it is because of my involvement in the BPOU that opened my eyes to this reality. As black physicians, we have unique challenges and thus it’s really important that an organization like the BPOU exists to provide a space for us to support each other and provide opportunities to advance each other’s careers. It is also critical that the BPOU exists to show young African Americans that there should be no limit to what they can aspire to and that there are examples of like-minded individuals right in their backyard that have achieved high levels of excellence in their careers in medicine.