Kehinde Eniola, MD, MPH
It takes baby steps; do not be in haste to accomplish your goal. And when it seems your goal is unattainable, never give up.
This motto is what I lived by during my journey as an immigrant from Nigeria on my way to becoming a family medicine faculty member.
My baby step to success began back in 1997 while getting ready for college in Nigeria. I was enrolled in a predegree course in basic science with the intention of getting into college to study agricultural economics. However, as fate would have it, I completed my predegree course with excellent grades and I qualified to enroll in medical science.
In my first year, I quickly realized that it takes a devoted mind and a committed heart to be successful in the field of medicine. And on top of the rigors of medical school, I endured years of studying in the dark due to inadequate electricity supply and frequent school closure due to rioting and lecturer strikes. However, despite all the hardship, I was focused on one goal: becoming a medical doctor. In 2006, I graduated from medical school and shortly after I relocated to the United States.
One might wonder “why relocate to the United States after completing medical school?” Right after medical school, I applied to various medical institutions in Nigeria for a medical internship position. After multiple attempts to get into one of these institutions failed, I decided to relocate to the United States to further my medical education. Many questions crossed my mind: What if I do not pass the required licensing exam to further my medical career in the United States? What if I cannot afford to pay for the licensing exams? What if… What if… Some international medical graduates say that it is challenging to get into a residency program; others recommended going for a nursing program instead, to make ends meet while trying to get into a medical residency program. Despite my fear, I summoned courage and began the process of getting into a US residency program.
Judy Washington, MD
To inspire the next generation of underrepresented in medicine (URM) educators, the STFM Foundation is launching a year-long blog series. In the new series, The Path We Took, URM members will share the path they took to become faculty and leaders in family medicine. I’m delighted to kick off the series by sharing my own leadership journey.
One African American Woman’s Leadership Journey
When you have the privilege to serve in leadership, you have the responsibility to reach back and identify other colleagues who would not otherwise have the opportunity to be recognized. You can do this through mentoring, building systems to support the underrepresented, or financially supporting the individuals or the systems that assist them.
When the opportunity was presented to be a cochair of the Minority and Multicultural Health Collaborative, I said “Yes!” I was fortunate to work with two wonderful African American women as my cochairs. At the time, both of them were rising leaders in their institutions, and I found myself being both a mentor and a mentee. I found their support of me to be crucial in making me the leader I am today.
As we led the collaborative, we found that its mission to increase minority representation had been challenged over the years by declining underrepresented in medicine (URM) membership and active participation. To combat this, our collaborative submitted a proposal, “Quality Mentorship Through STFM,” to the STFM Project Fund and received a $20,000 grant over 2 years. This grant allowed us to mentor new URM faculty and design a reproducible mentoring model. This model has been adopted by the New Faculty Scholars and led to collaboration with the Women in Family Medicine and New Faculty in Family Medicine Collaboratives. Our mentees continue to be visible and active in STFM. Two will soon complete the Emerging Leaders Fellowship.
Around the time of the project, I was asked to become a trustee of the STFM Foundation. My new challenge was to move from being a mentor and system builder to being a fundraiser. Earlier this year, I became the campaign chair for the URM Campaign. Donations to the URM campaign will support scholarships for students to attend the Conference on Medical Student Education, scholarships for residents to attend the Faculty for Tomorrow Workshop, scholarships for new faculty to attend the STFM Annual Spring Conference, and scholarships for the Emerging Leaders Fellowship. Funds will also be used to provide mentoring opportunities and fund innovative projects that contribute to a diverse family medicine workforce.
For me now, this reaching back goes beyond STFM. We need to build the next generation of family medicine educators. This means supporting mentoring programs in middle school through college, and in medical school and in residency. It includes looking to our community preceptors to find those excellent teachers who can transition into URM faculty. We need to increase URM members within STFM to ensure a diverse membership with a robust supply of new leaders to fill needed roles.