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Celebrate Black History Month with WHEMS: Navigating Medicine and Finding Black Joy

At WHEMS, we pride ourselves in the diversity of identities that are a part of our mission to disseminate women’s health information. The variety of voices is a small step towards providing better care and connecting with people who are often left behind by the healthcare industry. The Black women who are a part of WHEMS make us who we are. 

This Black History Month, we asked WHEMS members to tell us how they navigate medicine as Black women and how they find Black joy in their everyday lives. Here’s what they told us:

Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass

Staff/ Associate Professor

Obstetrics and Gynaecology

WHEMS co-founder

As a Black woman, I see myself as a role model to many people. I enjoy what I do and am generous with my time. I see medicine as a privilege and not a burden. Honesty, trust and compassion are important. Although I am a mentor to many, I enjoy reverse mentorship too.  Black Joy is real, I stay connected to my roots, and I love who I am.   

Dr. Carleigh Clarke

Resident physician

Family medicine

WHEMS Grant Director

It brings me great joy to listen to music created by Black artists. It is a reminder of the creative talent within this community.  During my elective at a long-term care home, I was pleasantly surprised to hear one of the residents listening to Bob Marley's classics.  When I arrived at the room where the music was playing, the patient smiled at me and asked if I knew who this artist was. I said, “Of course, he is from the same country where my ancestors once lived!” This sparked a long conversation about the Caribbean islands. Moreover, it helped me to build rapport with a patient that I was seeing for the first time.  I’ve learned that as a Black woman I can lean on my unique perspectives and experiences to build trust, make meaningful connections, and create inclusive environments. This has helped me to navigate the medical field.

Julia Kemzang

Third Year Medical Student

University of Ottawa

WHEMS Administrative Secretary

Navigating medicine as a Black woman has been a journey of resilience and self-affirmation. I am presently 1 of 5 Black students in my cohort of 167 and specifically 1 of 3 black women. The pervasive feeling of having my credentials and competence doubted often weighs heavily, leading to moments of self-doubt and questioning. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the best way to address these biases is simply to ignore them. Now, in every space and every room that I enter, I intentionally remind myself that I belong and am deserving of the opportunities I've earned thus far. Embracing this mindset has empowered me to hold my head high and celebrate my achievements without reservation. 

Black joy for me emerges in the heartfelt connections that I forge with Black patients who visibly brighten up at the sight of me entering an examination room. I vividly recall an experience with a Black woman during my emergency medicine rotation. As I was leaving the room, she uttered, “Thank you on behalf of all of us”. I then turned around and looked at her, and we both smiled at each other without exchanging any further words. Nonetheless, never were so many words and emotions exchanged through a simple shared smile. 

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