White Coats Black Doctors: responding to adversity with resilience

QBPA event connects minority pre-med students with physicians

The event was run by Queen's Black Premedical Association
Last Thursday, campus hosted White Coats Black Doctors for the second year in a row. 
Queen’s Black Premedical Association (QBPA) organizes the event to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to hear from physicians about their personal experiences as minorities in healthcare. 
The event was directed at undergraduate students interested in pursuing medicine, but open to anyone.
QBPA runs the event with guidance from the University of Toronto Medical School Community of Support initiative. It consisted of three speakers, followed by a panel question and discussion period. 
Speakers were to answer the question: What is it like being a physician of colour and how do you overcome adversity in the workplace?
The first speaker, Andrew Thomas, is in his last year of residency at Queen’s. Thomas went to Howard University, a historically Black school in Washington, D.C. Thomas said he felt no adversity there, “surrounded by Black excellency.”
He said that faculty warned them things wouldn’t be the same outside of Howard’s “bubble.” 
However, Thomas said he’s had an overall positive experience coming back to Canada, although he still notes micro-aggressions—people making assumptions about him based on his skin colour. 
“These things happen to all of us and sometimes when someone says something that really irks you, it takes you back for a second and I think it’s natural and human to not always be on your toes and able to respond to these things when they do happen,” he told the audience. 
Thomas said that response is about reflecting on things that have happened and then using the next opportunity to educate. 
Mala Joneja, the second speaker, is the director of diversity and equity for the Queen’s School of Medicine. She is also a graduate of the Queen’s School of Medicine, class of ’94. 
She also addressed micro-aggressions and their ability to diminish a student’s enthusiasm, progress, and identity. 
She said that when talking to her medical students about unprofessional behaviour, she tells them it’s impossible for her to say they’re not going to experience racism in the workplace. 
“No matter how much we educate, and how much we model respect and promote the just treatment of everybody—it’s just going to happen,” she said. 
She added what she wants to see from her students is that they don’t let incidents of racism impede their progress. 
The final speaker of the night was Dr. Maxine Clarke, a graduate of the University of the West Indies, who now works in the department of pediatrics at Kingston General Hospital. 
Clarke recounted a personal experience with racism from when she first started working in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Vancouver.
Like Joneja, she advised attendees to never get into “a back and forth” over an issue and to work to establish a support network.
Following the speakers was a question and answer period. The panel answered questions including concerns about balancing work with life and how to deal with feeling “imposter syndrome.” 
President of QBPA, Anjolaoluwa Ogunsina, ArtSci ’20, told The Journal she hopes the event gave students an opportunity to connect with the physicians informally. 
She also hopes that attendees came away understanding that despite racism, they’ll still see themselves in the healthcare field and should be encouraged by how other physicians overcame that adversity. 
“These are things you just can’t learn from reading a book,” she said. 

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