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This Doctor Can: Monique Bediako

For Black History Month, this This Doctor Can blog focuses on the life and career of physician associate student, Monique Bediako.

I come from Ghanaian heritage, however I was born and raised in the USA – the Washington, DC area to be exact. So, what am I doing in London? This has to be the most commonly asked question I’ve been asked since I arrived.

I came here to pursue my passion of becoming a health practitioner. I came here to re-write my story. I was accepted at St George’s, University of London — the UK’s only university that specialises solely in medicine. The school has a dual role of being a hospital and university in one, and for that I love my school, and the full experience I am receiving at George’s. We are able to do so many hands-on procedures because we have real-world tools readily available to us.

I have always been interested in medicine. My mom is a nurse practitioner and is currently undertaking a doctor of nursing practice programme. She is an immigrant from Ghana, comes from a very low-income background and her parents passed away when she was very young. As a girl, she never even wore shoes when she attended primary school, because she could not afford them. However, despite these adversities, she travelled to the USA and has been a nurse at amazing hospitals, such as Walter Reed and The National Institutes of Health. She has always pushed my siblings and me to further our education.

My undergraduate degree is in health science. With my love for the medical field, and after a talk with a friend in undergrad, I knew the physician associate (PA) role was for me. The profession is so flexible, and the current and future development is astronomical. PAs seem to always take their time and have a genuine interest in their patients’ needs. I have always admired that. After speaking with my mom’s PA colleagues, recent PA graduates, and shadowing PAs at my previous internship, my passion for the profession was solidified.

Being in a minority, I have recognised the importance of having black men and women in medicine. Not only is it key to patient-centred care, but it is important to the future of medicine. There are so many subtle nuances of racism in the medical field and having more black medical professionals helps to minimise the gap.

Black women in America are 3–4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than their Caucasian counterparts. Working at a hospital in Baltimore (a city with a very large African-American population) for over a year, I saw the subtle and not so subtle racial nuances first-hand.

In 2018, Serena Williams complained to her medical team that she could not breath and she pleaded with her medical team for a CT scan. The scan later showed that she had developed a pulmonary embolism a day after giving birth via cesarean section. Going untreated for long periods of time, blood clots are fatal and life-threatening! It is possible the embolism could have been avoided when Williams first mentioned she was not feeling well. What effects of the embolism could have also been avoided if her medical team took her initial cry for help more seriously? Here in the UK, there was a story of a young woman that took shook the world. A 28-year-old Ghanaian nurse named Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, passed away earlier this year due to COVID-19 and giving birth. She was still working while heavily pregnant and spoke of her concerns – concerns that were not taken seriously by her employers.

These stories do not even do justice to the amount of pregnant black women who have experienced discrimination in their lifetime. It does not do justice to other minorities who have experienced discrimination in a healthcare setting. I am exhausted of hearing these heartbreaking stories. No human being should be belittled in a medical center due to their background, race, or religion.

I say all of this because we all relate more to those who look like us. I want to be the PA in a GP practice. I want to be the PA on duty in the A&E. I want to be the inpatient PA that is able to sympathise and emphasise with the minority patients who look like me. The future of medicine includes an increase of black medical professionals. The future of medicine is the FPA highlighting the stories of black medical students and licensed health workers during Black History Month. Displaying to Black girls and boys that, ‘you can do it’ is such an inspiration and motivation to black individuals thinking of pursuing medicine. I am here to tell you that you can do it, and you will be the reason medicine changes forever.

As a healthcare professional, I practise daily what Maya Angelou said: ‘[She] learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ My goal as an aspiring physician associate is to change the negative preconceptions patients might have coming into a healthcare setting. I am excited to know that as a physician associate, I will empower all my patients to better manage their health.