In continuing our series, “Diversity in Healthcare”, and shining a spotlight on the many individuals currently making their way through the field, this week, we had the incredible opportunity of speaking with Olejuru Anozie, and getting an insider perspective on why she chose to pursue medicine.
Hello Olejuru, thank you so much for joining us today, could you please introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Olejuru Anozie and I am a first year medical student.
Could you give us a brief rundown of your academic background?
I graduated from King’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Biology. I have a Master’s of Science in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University.
Where are you currently at and what are you currently working towards?
I am currently going to the Cumming School of Medicine, and I am working towards graduating and obtaining my MD!
When did you first become interested in the field of healthcare, particularly in the field of medicine?
So, I first became interested in healthcare probably around grade 8, at least officially. As a kid, I was always the one who was super interested in making sure that when people got hurt they always got their Band-Aid, and all of those little, tiny things. However, I think formally, it wasn’t until the eighth grade that I really looked at the healthcare system and was just completely blown away.
I remember learning about the immune system in grade 8 science, and how B cells and T cells work together to make our bodies function. This new knowledge completely blew me away. I realized that if this is just one system of the body, how many more systems of the body are just as incredible. In that moment I decided that I was going to be an immunologist, however, this decision was based on the fact that that was the only system I had been exposed to at that time.
What is a major obstacle that you’ve encountered in your journey so far?
I think along the way I got into a little bit of a habit of comparing myself to other people that I thought were smarter or more intelligent than me. It led me to thinking that I wasn’t smart enough to pursue a career in medicine. A part of that was my fear of not being good in particular subjects and my very particular understanding on what being a leader in healthcare meant.
When you look at media and television, at the time of my journey, you only really saw Caucasian males playing the roles of doctors. I was never really exposed, all that much to experiences that were other than that. I think what really helped me was seeing my father as a physician. Every year we would go to the Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists conference, and since it was a family conference, all my friends would be there. There was something really powerful about seeing a collection of Nigerian physicians, come together from all over the country, to know that it is possible for me to also get to the same position one day.
There was one particular YouTube channel that I started in my last year of high school, after spending some time running away from the idea of pursuing a place in healthcare and in medicine. As I thought about this field more, I started really digging into what it would take for me to actually pursue this dream. I started going through YouTube and Google, looking at all of the requirements for different schools. I stumbled upon a YouTube channel that I believe originally started as a blog called, “Doctor in the House.” It was a channel put up by an ophthalmologist named Andrea Tooley. She shared this particular phrase, “I may not know everything, but I am capable of learning all that I need to learn.” She would always say this to herself whenever she felt inadequate, and I think that’s one of the big things I want to leave everyone with. Don’t discount your strengths because you think they don’t fit into a particular box of what you tend to see as being needed to go into healthcare. Know that what you would call your weaknesses can be improved upon and that you are able to learn them.
What does diversity in healthcare mean to you?
Ultimately, for me, diversity in healthcare looks like representation but in a number of different ways. It looks like a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds who actually hold positions of leadership in the healthcare sphere. Why? Because it shows that the barriers and the way that the system has been set up against particular minority groups, can be overcome. By seeing yourself in someone, in a place you want to go, you are further motivated to be able to get there. It opens the door. You get to that space and you open the door for the people who are coming after you.
Together we can make an impact on the health of the nations and the generations to come.
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