Being in medicine requires practitioners to be more than a clinician but also an advocate, coordinator, counselor, information resource and supporter for patients. As physicians we are in an unique position to understand and treat the protean manifestations of clinical, behavioral and psycho-social problems across an entire lifetime.
Medicine has allowed me to fulfill my vocation to serve the needs of my own community but also cultivate a platform to initiate change in the lives of others globally. I am empowered daily by patients and other medical providers, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and social workers, who all assist in the ability to collaborate with patients regarding their medical care. I truly believe by working together, this approach to patient care can facilitate significant improvements in our patients’ lives which ultimately strengthens each of us to become more cognizant within each patient encounter and holistic providers.
Being a Minority
Whether I like it or not, I am in the minority among my fellow residents. To many people, I don’t look like the presumed “face” of a doctor. I am a woman of color. At times, when I introduce myself as “Dr.” I still get shocking facial expressions from all races. The fact is, there are only 4 percent of physicians that are black. I am indebted to remarkable women such as Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who became the first black woman to graduate from medical school in 1864. This woman was fierce, passionate and a trailblazer. My path was made far easier because of women and men such as Dr. Crumpler, however there are still many struggles minority physicians, such as myself continue to face today. In saying that, I also must emphasize that I did not fall victim to the many overt as well as subtle discriminatory experiences I’ve had over the years. Instead, I used those experiences as a fulcrum to propel myself forward in all aspects of my life.
Traveling the World as a Doctor
My ambition has led me around the world, sometimes unplanned. For example, my medical school training was not traditional. I lived on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean for 16 months. Most only know of this island from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, however it is much more than the setting of a popular movie; for it was there that I began my official journey in medicine. Yes, I bought kilowatts of electricity daily from the local grocery store, carried buckets of water from the main campus when my water was mostly brown in color or I didn’t have any at all, and numerous roosters served as my alarm clock daily which inevitably helped ensure I wasn’t late to class.
I wouldn’t change my time in Dominica for anything. The experience was challenging and although at times I feared being unable to succeed in obtaining residency due to the hierarchy of medical education in the U.S. I continued to look ahead and strive towards my goals despite circumstance and preconceived notions about an atypical path in medicine. I am thankful I didn’t fall victim to negative opinion because it allowed me to achieve so much and stand where I am today. I was able to work with the community I lived among and contributed to their healthcare directly. I hosted medical drives and facilitated in the first HIV/AIDS symposium in Dominica and served as the Advocacy Chair for a Clean Hands initiative with the Dominican Ministry of Health. The time I spent abroad widened my understanding of my place in the world which was not framed by the color of my skin, gender or where I went to medical school. I benefited far greater than I could have ever imagined by having such an untraditional path.
The New Normal
Humanitarian action is more than simple generosity or, charity. I aim towards building a normalcy in the midst of the abnormal. Since I was a child I’ve continued to cultivate my vocation to the world and in doing so I’ve found myself all over the world-whether triaging hundreds of patients that stood in lines outside of a primary school in Kenya, building a home alongside a family in a remote region of El Salvador, or working in Argentina at local hospitals diagnosing Chagas disease with physicians and nurses. I’ve been fortunate enough to gain a unique global understanding of medicine in different stages of my life. My passion in medicine is founded in my ability to serve needs not only locally but internationally.
I firmly believe in the WHO mission statement, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I don’t just treat the condition, there is a holistic approach to medicine that is often overlooked and not regarded as critical. I’ve found that by having this approach I’ve not only connected more deeply with my patients but established a level of trust that goes beyond any prescription I could write. Even without knowing a patient’s language, I have been able to utilize resources within their own communities via local health care workers and religious leaders, to establish a means of connection regardless of circumstances, that transcended initially perceived boundaries. Medicine isn’t easy but it is in these challenges that I have found my greatest opportunity to strengthen my abilities to engage in community with others while being mindful of various forms of tradition, culture and beliefs. These are the many things that cannot be taught in any academic setting but instead have to be experienced with intention. I strive towards profoundly impacting the lives of many in underserved rural, urban and international communities.
Traveling to various countries such as Kenya, Guatemala, Argentina, El Salvador and the Caribbean, opened my mind to new realms of thinking, while solidifying my thoughts as a globally minded physician. Realizing that millions across the world are unable to maintain their health due to a myriad of complexities, some major players being poverty, environmental conditions and lack of public assistance, challenged me to re-examine my long term goals in serving others with my skills. Having these experiences continues to further my passion for international medicine and ambition to apply the knowledge daily within my own community.
Amanda Mohammed, MD is a practicing Family Medicine Physician in Dallas, Texas. She enjoys traveling, visiting local coffee shops, volunteering, photography and live music. You can follow her on Instagram @dr.mandamo and read some of her blog posts here
To hang out more with other amazing women doctors like her, check out the Women in White Coats Doctors’ Lounge, our virtual doctors’ lounge just for women doctors. Its an exclusive membership area meant to empower and support you through out your career. Inside our Doctors Lounge you will get to partake in webinars from experts on topics relevant to women physicians, monthly online support groups and even a book club. To become a member click this link.