Black History Month Spotlight: Olabode Akinsanya, MD

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February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and honor the traditions, history, perspectives and contributions of all Black Americans. In honor of this month and the year-round contributions of our Black team members, we spoke with family medicine physician Olabode Akinsanya, MD, to hear his reflections on Black identity, diversity in healthcare, and why representation is vital for positive patient outcomes.

QWhat does your Black/African/African American heritage mean to you?

A: It means everything to me. It is the core of my being. Knowing that I come from a rich cultural background has always been a thing of pride, joy and a source of strength. 

Q: Is there something you wish people knew more about your culture or racial identity?

A: Africa is rich – (exceptional people, beautiful, wonderful culture), it is the cradle of mankind and is made up of 54 countries.

Q: Why do you think diversity and inclusion in the healthcare workforce are important? How do greater diversity and inclusion affect the patient experience?

A: Diversity in healthcare is very important. It creates an avenue for people with diverse backgrounds to share a common space, learn from one another, and in so doing, understand their respective cultural differences. Patients will ultimately benefit from this by getting care from caregivers who look like them or at least one who is culturally aware of their unique situations.

Q: What led you to pursue a career in healthcare?

A: I have always nurtured the idea of helping people. One way of doing that was to be a physician.

Q: Who was/were your inspiration(s) as you were building your career?

A: My family. They inspire me to be the best version of myself.

Q: Why is representation important in your field of study?

A: As family physicians, we are the gatekeepers of the healthcare system. Representation can help ease patients into their use and trust of healthcare establishments. This, in turn, helps physicians obtain reliable histories, arrive at the appropriate diagnosis, and come up with a great plan of care.

Q: When you reflect on your career, what moment are you most proud of?

A: It is hard to tell in this career path. One high moment becomes the launchpad for another. But the genuine gratitude from the patients we care for are the moments I live for.

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