For Black History Month, this This Doctor Can blog focuses on the life and career of physician associate, Obianuju Nwokolo.
I graduated as a physician associate from the University of Aberdeen in 2018. Since graduation, I have worked across acute medicine, emergency medicine and currently in general practice. As a black woman working on the frontline, I have come to understand and appreciate the expectations and demands of working in the NHS, the cultural differences and, sometimes, the language barriers. But more importantly, I have had the privilege of delivering care to patients and supporting their families at a vulnerable time in their lives.
Prior to starting my MSc in 2016, I had worked as a healthcare assistant in a local hospice and NHS trust. These experiences paved the way for me, and rekindled my childhood aspiration of pursuing a career in medicine. I was diagnosed with heart failure at the age of 5, and appreciated the role of all medical staff involved in my treatment.
For a couple of years, I tried to get the required certification to allow me to pick up a career in the UK using my first degree in biochemistry from Nigeria. As a Nigerian, I have always learned to use every challenge to motivate me to the next level. I came to know about the physician associate programme and became motivated after reading the stories and watching the YouTube videos of a day in the life of PAs, which featured a black woman like myself.
As a PA, I have also had opportunities to mentor younger colleagues. As a mother to two young children, my story has encouraged other young black females, especially those who aspire a career in healthcare, but feel constrained due to the demands of family.
I am grateful for the opportunities, the challenges and hurdles I have overcome to be where I am today. To say that I am thrilled to be a physician associate is a modest statement. I am over the moon to be part of this 'relatively new' healthcare profession that makes a significant difference to patients’ experience – even more now, during these exceptional times.
Finally, as we celebrate black history this October, I commend and celebrate fellow black men and women working tirelessly in our NHS across all levels, and those working in research and conducting clinical trials for a vaccine to beat this virus. In spite of the real danger, you have all shown true commitment, and I applaud your courage.
Would you like to share your experience of going into medicine? Get in touch on Twitter via @thisdoctorcan.