By Maimouna Traore, Lola Akingbade, Itzel Lopez, and Akosua Oppong, MS1s
The third annual Black and Latina Women and Medicine (BLWM) Forum was held at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine on May 11. BLWM had the honor of hosting students and faculty from several institutions throughout the Chicago area and was fortunate to have the attendance of individuals from Rush Medical College, Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and associated undergraduate institutions. We are proud that Black and Latina women from across our region were as enthused as we were to engage in an event such as this one. The purpose of the BLWM is to build empowering connections, provide mentorship to aspiring physicians, and discuss our own mechanisms of solving the issues that affect our communities. All of these goals are only possible through our collaboration, hence why we titled this year’s forum, “The Power of We”.
Our event began with a panel discussion with seven esteemed female physicians of color representing a wide range of specialties such as Emergency Medicine, ENT, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Radiology, Rheumatology, and Vascular Surgery. We thank Drs. Pilar Ortega, Nadia Caballero, Adrianne Dade, Sandra Sanguino, Carla Harmath, Kimberly Trotter, and Chelsea Dorsey for sharing their stories with us, as they were very transparent about the adversities they have faced as women of color in medicine. Their stories encompassed major topics of immigration, imposter syndrome, self-advocacy, and success. They were gracious with their candidness, and were undoubtedly inspirational to every person in attendance.
At the conclusion of the panel, everyone convened for lunch and were encouraged to sit with a physician and students from other institutions. Our participants had the opportunity to engage further with panelists and build community with Black and Latina women across our peer institutions. These conversations addressed a variety of interests such as mentorship, community research, pursuing competitive subspecialties, beginning a career in academic medicine, and paving a way for future generations of female physicians of color.
After, students had the opportunity to attend two of three workshops. The session on advocating for survivors of domestic violence was hosted by Dr. Sonia Oyola of the University of Chicago. Dr. Oyola discussed the spectrum of what is considered domestic violence and encouraged our students to discuss how they would advocate for survivors of those situations. The Immigration Status and Health session was hosted by Dr. Margarita Mankus of Rush School of Medicine. Dr. Mankus had an interactive session where students were encouraged to discuss how we can best serve immigrant patients and patient quotes were offered as an insight to the patient experience. She used role playing to show better ways of communicating. The Maternal Health and Morbidity session was hosted by Dr. Tamika Alexander of UIC. In this session, we address the maternal morbidity crisis unique to African American women and the various historically related issues that have lead us to this point. Each workshop offered valuable insight into the issues that are directly affecting our communities and ways these female physicians have sought to solve them.
We concluded our forum with a keynote address that honored the life and legacy of Dr. Tamara O’Neal. Dr. O’Neal was an inspiring African American female physician who fell victim to domestic violence. We were honored to have her former classmate Dr. Garth Walker (University of Chicago) and Dr. Victor Nwankwo (Rush) offer their memories of Dr. O’Neal. They also discussed the AFFIRM scholarship and research grant, a program to support medical trainees conducting research on domestic violence and gun violence. She is remembered as a physician who always emphasized the importance of building community among physicians of color and expecting excellence of everyone apart of that community. We hope to honor her legacy starting from this forum, and for many years to come. Through this work of this conference we hope to build off the lessons of community and support for Black and Latinx women in medicine.