Moving to Flint for my third year of medical school has been everything I never knew I needed. I came to Michigan because the medical school provided this great opportunity for students interested in serving minority populations to do clinical rotations in Flint. I knew I wanted to serve marginalized communities and, by living and working in one, I would learn more than if I trained elsewhere.
For the first two years of medical school, I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A cute little town (I’m a LA girl so it is definitely not a city) that was conservative and somewhat segregated. I felt my skin color in more spaces than I would have liked. But, the importance of my physical presence became clear.
Moving to Flint, where diversity is prominent, doctors of colors are pervasive, and my name does not bring a shock factor 90% of the time, has been a breath of fresh air. I am reminded that as a Black woman in medicine, a creative, and a first-generation American, representation matters. Our very being can shift the environment and redefine lines drawn by the majority.
I remember grappling with the idea that I wanted to pursue medicine and feed my passion for photography. I didn’t know anyone who had done both. I didn’t think it was possible. I did not call myself a photographer, even though people were already paying me for sessions (graduation sessions were the bread and butter in college, okay!). I didn’t believe that I could hold this title and pursue my calling to become a physician. My parents DEFINITELY thought I was confused and distracted with my little “hobby.” But my friends encouraged me and told me my truth many times over. I prayed and kept at it, hoping that one day God would make it clear.
Now, my parents, who immigrated from Nigeria, see that someone can be both a creative/photographer and pursue a career in medicine. They have less fear for my explorations of the “unknown” than when I was navigating these realms years ago. They are now supportive and at peace with my journey. Now, even their advice to other parents have shifted to being more encouraging of other career paths outside the cultural norms of the engineer, lawyer and doctor.
My journey has impacted many people because I stayed the course and now others can see that they too can hold positions in different fields. We can be multi-faceted, embracing every aspect of ourselves, sharing our gifts, talents and presence to all.
Our being is powerful. Flint reminded me of that. I had a child patient who was mesmerized by my skin and hair, and when she found out that I was a doctor (student doctor), she left believing that she would be a doctor with braids when she grew up. My very presence shifted her dreams.
So, if you are reading this, particularly if you are Black, or a person of color, we need you. In whatever field you are in, my future children need you; to see you. To see that they can be anything; that they can create a life for themselves using their God-given gifts. To see that they are important, necessary, and capable of dreaming and dreaming big.
The next series of images are dedicated to my younger self. I couldn’t find female models to be myself as a child and growing up, and maybe that is because that visual is needed in the future, but I found some guys that did the job. The images are a visual depiction of the feelings we experience trying to visualize what we should or can become. Please engage with me. Share your story in the comments below, or privately via email. I’d love to hear from you. Your story is important.
Special thanks to Dr. White and her sons who were my muses for the day along with my classmate and future colleague Justin Robinson for joining in on this legit last minute session. I appreciate you all for helping me to share this story and to add the the visual of the possibilities for Black people pursuing careers in medicine. Shifting the narrative.
Osose Oboh is a medical student, visual storyteller, content creator, and advocate for minorities pursuing careers in medicine. She went to UCLA obtaining her B.S. in Biology before going to the University of Southern California for her MPH with a focus on Global Health Leadership. Following the completion of a postbac program at Charles R. Drew University, she matriculated into Michigan State University College of Human Medicine!Â In addition to her medical career pursuits, Osose has been working as a freelance photographer for seven years, and has shot her own visual art projects in addition to weddings, graduations, fashion and lifestyle photography, and her favorite, travel photography. She plans on combining her passion for photography, global/public health, and medicine in her future career.