A quick story. I’m on ambulatory medicine at the VA. Yesterday I went to get a patient from the waiting room. A Black man who served in Vietnam. When I introduced myself as Dr. Igwe, he gave me a very strange look. I asked if I had the wrong person, but he said “no, that’s me”.
I couldn’t shake this weird feeling I had, so I asked him why he was looking at me like I had three heads. He said, “Brother, I’ve been coming to the VA since 1970. And I’ve NEVER seen a Black doctor. Many Black people around the place, but never a doctor.”
Now it was my turn to be shocked. In over 50 years of coming to the VA, this man had never seen a Black physician! I was his first. He then proceeded to tell me how important this was to him. The fact that I simply existed and was here with him at that moment.
After I finished up the exam, I went to staff with my attending and we came back into the room together. While pointing at me, the patient tells my attending, “You need to keep him! He’s the first doctor I’ve ever had that looks like me.”
Now y’all. I’ve had some great moments as a doctor over the last 7 months. But this one was definitely one of the most profound. It filled me with joy to know that the last 13 years of my life were in preparation to make this type of impact. And that I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Although just having Black people represented in medicine is not enough, it is still very important. Cause our very existence is therapeutic. It makes a difference. We also need the support and systemic changes to actually thrive in this field.
I never expected my short thread to get this much attention! Thank you to everyone that reached out with kind words and encouragement, and those who shared your own powerful stories! I’m glad to be doing this work and to see that so many of you appreciate its importance.

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