PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY SSM HEALTH
were placing a deeper level of trust in her opinions, especially when it came to getting vaccinated. Oruwari, a breast surgeon at SSM Health DePaul Hospital, knew that fewer than 6 percent of physicians in the United States identify as Black or African American. To boost those numbers and allow more patients to see themselves in the doctors who treat them, Oruwari wanted to do her part.
Oruwari’s new book Black Girls In White Coats aims to inspire young Black women to pursue careers in the medical field. The book features a collection of stories from Black women doctors about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced during their careers.
In a way, Oruwari is paying it forward after all the help and guidance she received when she was younger. Oruwari, a native of Nigeria, knew she wanted to become a doctor from the time she was 3 years old, after watching the way her great-grandfather cared for patients. “As a young girl in Nigeria, I remember sitting with my great-grandfather, a medicine man, who used herbs to cure people,” she says. “It was my first awareness of any kind of medicine.”
“They were my inspiration to become a breast surgeon,” she says.
Now, Oruwari hopes to provide similar inspiration for other women and young girls. During the pandemic, Oruwari began thinking about how she could encourage the next generation of women to consider medicine as a career. She threw some ideas around and asked several other physicians if they would be willing to share their own personal stories. The result is a collection of short stories that illustrate the different paths Black women have taken to earn their own white coats. In the book, Oruwari includes testimonies from 60 Black female physicians.
The hope is that the book empowers young Black girls to not only consider a future in medicine, but realize exactly what it means to achieve it. “I was hoping this book would inspire the next generation,” Oruwari says, “so we could get more people that look like us in healthcare.”