Beyond Clinical Walls Podcast

Bridging Racial Disparity: Black Women in Medicine and the Path to the Next Generation

November 19, 2023 Dr. BCW - Dr. Curry-Winchell, M.D. Season 1 Episode 5
Beyond Clinical Walls Podcast
Bridging Racial Disparity: Black Women in Medicine and the Path to the Next Generation
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of Beyond Clinical Walls Podcast, Dr. Curry-Winchell, also known as Dr. BCW, talks about the challenges facing black female physicians as she discusses with Dr. Ivie Okundaye.

Join Dr. BCW in this enlightening episode of Beyond Clinical Walls Podcast. She engages in a deep conversation with Dr. Okundaye. Dr. Okundaye is a nephrologist and assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. In this candid discussion, Dr. Okundaye shares her inspirational journey. From her roots in the Midwest to her remarkable achievements in the medical field.

Born to Nigerian immigrant parents, Dr. Okundaye's path led her through prestigious institutions like Wake Forest University and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. She shares her experiences, shaped by her identity and the challenges of being a black woman in medicine. Of course Dr. Curry-Winchell relates to many of these challenges. Hear these two physicians provide their unique perspective on health equity and the importance of diversity in healthcare.

Dr. Okundaye delves into her experiences in medical school and her fellowship at Stanford University. She highlights the challenges and triumphs of her journey. Of course, both physicians share their dedication to patient care, self-advocacy, and mentoring the next generation of medical professionals.

The discussion also explores Dr. Okundaye's venture into health communication through radio shows and podcasts, her passion for enhancing health literacy, and her innovative consulting firm designed to guide aspiring medical professionals.

This episode is not just a narrative of personal success. It’s a beacon of hope and guidance for anyone aspiring to make a difference in the world of medicine. Regardless of their background.

Join Dr. Curry-Winchell on the Beyond Clinical Walls Podcast for an inspiring tale of resilience, commitment, and the power of diversity in shaping the future of healthcare.

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Speaker 1:

Hi everyone. It's Dr BCW with Beyond Clinical Walls. Thank you for joining me today. I am excited to share an amazing guest that I have today. Her name is Dr Evie. She is a physician, an entrepreneur, a leader and so much more. I'm going to share a little bit of her background and then I'll have her introduce herself as well. She is a native from Wisconsin, but born in Chicago. It's important to highlight she was born to immigrant parents from Nigeria. She attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem as well, as she earned her medical degree from University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in 2015 and then completed her internal medicine residency training at Loyola University, chicago, illinois, where she was appointed a research scholar and developed a curriculum for medical student education. She completed a Nephrology Fellowship at Stanford University for Advanced Clinical and Research Training in Kidney Disease. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, reno, and her areas of interest she focuses on fertility, pregnancy and contraception. She has authored research manuscripts, case reports, book chapters and presented her research at numerous conferences, including the International Society of Nephrology Frontiers Meeting in Tokyo, japan, in 2018. She also has hosted and produced a health radio show and community health podcast in order to expand her outreach to those seeking answers to health problems. Thank you so much for joining Beyond Clinical Walls. I would love for listeners to hear even more about who you are, your story and we'll get down to why you do what you do.

Speaker 2:

Well, thank you so much, Dr Bcw, for having me on your podcast. I'm such a fan, really, of yours and congratulations for all of your success. You're such an inspiration. But yeah, just to reintroduce myself, my name is Dr Evie Okendaye and my name is it looks like IV. People think I'm spelling my name, but no, it's spelled IVIE but pronounced EVA. Okay, so my patients they call me Dr Evie or Dr Okendaye. But yeah, I'm a nephrologist, meaning kidney doctor, and building up my clinical prowess basically in nephrology. So yeah, I'm originally from the Midwest Chicago, born, raised in Wisconsin, and I've been all over the country. I've moved all over the country and really can probably do well anywhere, but I feel like I'm more of a West Coast type of girl. Now I'm an assistant professor in clinical medicine, but my interests are even beyond medicine. Really, you know some of the things I enjoy doing. I like working out. These days that's one of my guilty pleasures, you know, especially since getting my new earphones. This is not an ad, but since getting my new earphones I've definitely been able to increase my exercise, because you don't hear yourself sweat like panting or anything. But yeah, I love working out.

Speaker 1:

Yes, you know, and one thing that I like to share with everyone when we met, there was just an automatic connection, and then there was even more of a connection with our love and just intent and desire to really amplify and diversify healthcare in all areas, and so I would love for listeners to hear about your journey of going into medicine and share some of your experiences that you really experienced, because I think that really shapes what you are doing right now.

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely so. Yes, you know. The other interesting thing is I'm a child of immigrants from West Africa, okay, specifically Nigeria, so that kind of influences my worldview. But yeah, I ultimately went to med school and you know there were a lot of challenges. I'm definitely a smart person but you know it's hard to be prejudged and, honestly, there aren't a lot of. You know, you don't necessarily see it put out there about smart black people. It can be intimidating, it can be scary and yeah, I've had a lot of challenges just being a black woman in medicine and just trying to get into medical school and then survive training, to be honest. But you know I've done it. I've done it and it's amazing. There have been a couple of experiences throughout my training that it's clear I'm being judged by the color of my skin and it hurts. It hurts, it's one of the most. It feels dehumanizing, honestly. You know training is hard for everybody, but when you're adding this other layer on top of it, it hits deeply right. So I remember one time I won't say exactly when or where, but I remember one time I was in the operating room I was asked to, like you know, gown up and glove up and move one of the lights right. Well, I unfortunately contaminated a particular area of the operating room and everyone just looked at me like you know, like you're the dumbest person in the world, and I got the cold shoulder and comments were exchanged. But I can only just sit there and take it. I'm telling you, the next day I kid you, not the next day I had a colleague do the exact same mistake in the operating room, exactly trying to move the lights right and contaminating a particular area of the OR. And everyone same people, same OR. They just laughed like oh, how cute. Like, oh, you know, like this trainee doesn't know, like wow, amazing.

Speaker 1:

I have so many experiences like that, but I've been lucky to be honest, when you share those barriers and those things that happen to students of color, it's really important to kind of highlight what happened, because if someone else is facing that and I bring this up because you said I was lucky Well I feel that anyone listening right now is lucky to hear your story and hopes that if they do face something similar, don't let that be the all the be, all you know. Continue to push forward, even with challenges that you may face, just trying to navigate through medical school and that layer, that extra layer of judgment and those intersectionalities that we all carry. And so I think hearing those experiences and then later on we'll get into the work that you're doing now and the work that you have been doing in hopes of helping other students kind of go through this is important. I'd like to kind of go a little bit deeper and continue that route. So I would love for you to share some of the other challenges. When you talk about you are a physician and you are a nephrologist, let's share that. How long does it take? Because some people have no idea how long that takes as far as training hours worked and so forth.

Speaker 2:

You know, I don't even know how long it took me, I have to add it up but in general, four years of undergraduate, okay, four years of medical school. I did a three year residency program in internal medicine that standard and then I went on to do a three year research fellowship at Stanford, so we can do the math on that. Now, nephrology is generally two years. There are some three year programs that are more research, intense, intensive I should say. But yeah, a lot of years and a lot of hours. My first year fellowship was extraordinarily busy and challenging. I really remember just the number of pages. Anyone who's a trainee or wants to be a trainee, trust me, you'll get to know what I'm talking about. I literally feel like I almost have PTSD from the same ringtone of when I've gotten pages still till today. Of course I have my own set of pages now as a nephrologist, but as a trainee, yeah, it's tough. Lots of sleepless nights. And you know they call it residency and fellowship for a reason like resident, because it says, though you're a resident of the hospital, that's how much time you're spending in the hospital.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, and those hours worked in that time, you know, is important to mention because often people are not aware of the commitment that is put forward to not only become a physician. And then when you do additional years of training as well on top of that, I think that's important. And then when we circle back and we think of you know the current number, we know the statistics as black female physicians, we represent less than 3% of physicians in the US, although the overall population in the US of black individuals is approximately 13 to 14%. When you share some of the journey that you mentioned, and then you talk about that longevity, that, that that long game that it takes to achieve that, it's really important that we do all that we can to hopefully increase the pipeline of physicians of color, because we know there's a connection of improved health outcomes. You know, when I talk about beyond clinical walls, we always lean into why someone does what they do, and you've shared, you know your story and I would love for everyone to hear you know what is your journey. Now. You're a practicing physician and I always like to highlight that and while doing that, you're doing so many different areas to not only give back to health care, but you're doing it in your own way and I would love for listeners to hear what you're doing.

Speaker 2:

Yes, you know this is such an important issue. Thank you for bringing that up. You know there is a huge racial disparity in medicine and it's heartbreaking and it's honestly unacceptable. As a practicing physician, I cherish honestly some of those tough moments. They've really influenced me. They've influenced, like my, my tenacity and my commitment to you know what I love. This is a calling. This is a calling and I want people to understand and remember that even during the low times, when you feel truly like victimized or dehumanized, there's a larger calling on your life and medicine. There's a larger calling for me to help other people. So that's something I just try and remind myself of, especially when there is inappropriate racial language from patients, from colleagues, your teachers, even inappropriate racially charged conversations, just totally unacceptable, you know, just remember, you know to always try and stay professional if you just a professional, and also just remember to stand up for yourself in a professional way. Stand up for yourself. I think one thing I've learned, as I've, you know, gained more experience and just live life is just to have more self worth. I'm more than my mind, I'm more than a work product, I'm more than a laborer and I think, as you know, black individuals, especially smart black individuals. Sometimes we get that recognition and applause for being smart, but beyond that, you know I am a physician, but first I'm me, first I'm EVA, and you know I just try to always remember that and have self respect and dignity in everything that I do and I'm gaining more experience to learn how to create boundaries and protect myself and as a woman, as a black woman, in a competitive, elite field like this. It takes experience, it takes practice, but I've had incredible mentors. I have family members who are also physicians or also in healthcare or also in professional environments. So sometimes I think having a talk partner to kind of navigate challenging circumstances always helps. Remember, be professional. We can't do what other people do. I can't just react purely based on emotion. You know, one thing I'm focusing on now is just itself, understanding self, understanding boundaries and, honestly, one thing that keeps me going is just having exceptional patient care. Each case, each interaction, give it your best.

Speaker 1:

And you know you dropped so many different gems than that when you said that, you know, centering on patient care and continuing to be professional and I can't dismiss the fact that you said we can't react like others, you know, and so when you look at that whole package and we didn't even, you know, delve into all of it there's an extra layer that, as women of color, that we carry, as black women, that we carry in our profession, in our everyday lives, and we have to remember with all of that, as you said so beautifully, to invest in ourselves still and remind ourselves of who we are and that helps kind of carry forward all the things that we want to do. And for us, for you and I, it's healthcare delivering the best patient care we can throughout our, you know, with every patient that we see. And so. I would love you know to highlight one thing that you launched this year, because I think everyone should hear about it. So you launched a consulting firm in medical education that provides curated recommendations for students interested in pursuing medical careers, and the purpose was to what we just highlighted to support the next generation of doctors and really think about diversity of thought, experiences and caring for patients, because, again, that full circle has to really be thought of when we talk about this journey, especially for us in healthcare. So please share with everyone your, your firm, tell us about it, sure.

Speaker 2:

You know, this has just been a labor of love and I could not not launch this Okay. So, yes, this year I started a consulting firm that really focuses on supporting people who are interested in medical careers, who want to be doctors, okay, and this came about because of just what I've done over the years with mentoring students, residents and and fellows, just as in my work in academia. But also these are things that I've learned over time for myself and you know my friends, my family members how do you put together the best application? It requires time and it requires pre planning. So, if you know people are looking for a more personalized experience about, okay, how do I prepare myself for the rigor of medical education? You know this. This is something you might want to check out. But one thing I'm really focused on is really supporting people of color, specifically black people, african Americans, people of African descent. There's another layer to the whole process that you know I want to support, you know, students through. So I'm so excited. It's really good content and so far, I have a couple of great clients that are superstars already. But, yeah, it's awesome.

Speaker 1:

That's wonderful, you know, and this is we talk about. How do we increase diversity in healthcare? How do we really let those know that are thinking about becoming physicians really foster, help them get through it and and let them know that we're out there so we can provide that support. So this is wonderful. I also know that people can reach out to you on different channels, so please share. You know what channels are social media channels. Would you like people to reach out to you? Or email or so forth?

Speaker 2:

Yes, so yes, you can reach out to me on most social media platforms, on Instagram and on Twitter. On Twitter, I am at Dr IV I E O and same thing on Instagram. So Dr EV A O at at DR IV I E O on both Instagram and Twitter. Feel free to also just email me directly. My email address is IV I E dot O dot open day at gmailcom. And yeah just send me a message. You can, you know, type in something like next gen. You can DM me slide into my DMs, you know, next gen, if you're interested.

Speaker 1:

Well, thank you, dr AVA, for just joining me today on Beyond Clinical Walls. Thank you for just the amazing work that you have been doing and that you continue to do and giving back in so many different ways all that full circle piece of patient care, self care and helping the next generation. So this is Dr BCW. Thank you for listening to Beyond Clinical Walls. Don't forget to subscribe and turn on notifications so you don't miss my next upload, and if you found this information helpful, please hit the thumbs up. It really helps the channel, as always. Thanks for watching and thank you for your support.

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