Sanford doctors try to narrow racial gaps in medicine

Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 5:27 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Despite being more than 6,000 miles away from where she grew up in Nigeria, Dr. Ukamaka Nwadibia has come to accept Sioux Falls as a home away from home. Growing up in a smaller town in eastern Nigeria makes things feel similar, but another familiarity she finds between South Dakota and parts of Africa is less endearing. Through her work, she sees a lot of people in both areas are in need of healthcare services between Nigeria and South Dakota. Nwadibia and her husband try to contribute back home through outreach programs and helping out understaffed organizations, but it is a small ripple for a larger issue.

“The American health system underserves the African population,” Nwadibia said. “Poverty, inequality, lack of health care providers, and underrepresentation of minorities as healthcare providers are social determinants of health.”

According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, a little over 45,000 people identifying as Black or African American make up the composition of physicians in America. It is one of many statistics the Nwadibia family hopes will change in the future no matter the obstacles.

“We hope that by being African Americans and healthcare providers, that we can encourage other African American families or children who are thinking of going into healthcare practice to consider this as a career choice.”

Family is a big reason Nwadibia made her career choice as her uncle was a surgeon. She began her path towards a medical career while an undergraduate at the University of Lagos. After earning her degree in medical lab science, she attended medical school in the Caribbean at Windsor University School of Medicine while tending to her firstborn. Her family has grown since then, and she hopes her journey encourages others to pursue that dream no matter how difficult.

“If I could go to medical school as a mother, residency, and now I have five children, anyone can do it.”

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