600-level Medicine & Surgery
University of Ilorin
Hi, please tell us about yourself?
I am Evi Abada, a pathology resident physician at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Detroit Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan, USA. I completed my medical education at the University of Benin College of Medicine in Nigeria, and then I came to the US to get a masters in International Health Policy and Management. I worked in clinical research before I transitioned into medical residency.
That is amazing! Thank you, Dr Evi. Why did you decide to leave Nigeria?
I left because I wanted to get more education and training. I practised in Nigeria after medical school. I did my internship, youth service and worked in general medicine for a bit before I decided to come to the US. I was interested in Global Health and Health Policy. I didn’t think I would get the amount of training I needed in Nigeria so I came to the US and did my masters at one of the top schools for health policy—Brandeis University, Massachusetts.
Awesome! How did you make the transition from Nigeria to the US?
It was challenging, like any new adventure. I was coming to a new environment with new people and new systems. Thankfully, my family was supportive. I came in, did my masters and did some research before residency. Not having family, friends, and familiar things around was initially challenging, but as things went by, I got used to the system and I’m here now.
Was residency something that just happened? Did you plan to do a residency in the future when you moved to the US?
I wouldn’t have gone to medical school if I didn’t want to practice as a physician—I knew that down the line I would want to get back into medicine. As a physician, I am not just interested in treating patients and making a diagnosis. I am interested in the policies, decisions and how these influence the life of the patient. That was why I wanted extra training in health policy.
We have read that the chances of getting into residency reduce the longer one takes to apply, post medical school. How were you able to get into a program having a long gap from med school?
The gap wasn’t pre-planned. I didn’t know it would be that long before getting back to medical practice; sometimes, things are out of our control. I practised in Nigeria for 3 years (including internship and national youth service) post med school, then spent another year getting my masters. After which I did Optional practical training, studying, and taking the licensing exams. All these added extra years to the gap. It was difficult. Many programs won’t even look at your application if you are five years post med school. They have a filter system and your application isn’t considered at all.
Some programs have exceptions stated on their websites; the pathology program I matched into is one of such. I had to take my time to research which programs would accept me. Every time I tried to apply was challenging. I didn’t get accepted for residency the first and second time I applied, but I knew that I wanted to get back to medical practice and this kept me going. A lot of people thought there was no point in my trying every year. While I was working, I continued to apply every year. Each time I applied, I made sure my CV was better than it was the previous year and eventually, it paid off.
Such tenacity! When did your love for pathology begin?
Back in medical school, I loved Pathology—Histology especially. The slides were beautiful and fascinating, even though I didn’t understand much. I fell in love more when I came to the US and began working in research and learning about the genetics and molecular aspects of various diseases.
I can relate to not understanding pathology much. Haha.
How have you been able to play a role in global health using pathology?
With pathology, I understand the pathophysiology and genetics of diseases; I understand biomarkers that can be used to track disease progression. At this stage of my career, I am focused on education. I do a lot of talking and writing about Global Health using my background knowledge of causation, progression and prognosis. I am a global health correspondent writer for a journal—I write about what pathology brings to the table for global health. Pathologists understand the disease—its basics, genetics, and molecular aspects that other specialities may not be privy to.
How can more pathologists be involved in healthcare policy decision making?
Over the years, pathologists have been relegated to the background. We don’t interface with the patients, even though our decisions are central and critical to the treatment they ultimately get. Currently, I am trying to bring more education to pathologists to let them know we bring more to the table than just making a diagnosis. We can be better involved in Global Health with more education, exposure, public health training, through short courses, masters training etc. This will bring more pathologists to the forefront of Global Health.
Can you tell me about “500 women scientists” and the role you play there?
The 500 women scientists is an international organization for women working in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine). It is committed to making science inclusive, open and accessible to women. I serve on the leadership team and my role is to amplify the voices of women in Medicine. For example, we have a database of women scientists called “Request a Woman in STEMM” where women can input their information, field, and speciality. Opportunities are made available on this database. Also, conference organizers can easily access women for opportunities they are qualified for. It has been a pleasure to serve on the team and learn about the perspectives of women in other fields of science.
It is so important that these opportunities are made accessible to women. Thank you for the work you do at 500 women scientists. And congratulations on being nominated as one of the ‘American Society for Clinical Pathology 40 under 40’! How does this nomination make you feel?
It has been a humbling and pleasant experience. There are young people like me who wonder if they will ever be successful, attain their goals and make their dreams a reality. Being recognized as someone who is doing something credible and worth celebrating has been humbling. I am happy and hopeful that people can look at my story and be inspired to go after their goals.
Pendical wishes you the best, we are rooting for you. What is your favourite thing about living in the US?
One of my favourite things is access to opportunities. Being able to achieve my goals as a woman in medicine has been exciting too.
Are there any particular challenges you face being a black immigrant from Nigeria?
Absolutely! There are challenges of being a black person in the US, and that sort of quadruples when you are an African with a Nigerian accent living in the US. Though I graciously embrace my heritage, people are prone to judge me based on what I look like and even more when I speak.
Before I make presentations or speak, people are already asking “Are you from Nigeria?”, and it comes in two flavours, positive and negative. If one isn’t grounded, it could tick one off. Being a Nigerian woman in the medical space in the US, I have to work extra to get to the level of people who don’t look like me.
I am sorry about that. How have you been able to address these challenges?
It stems from my upbringing; I don’t care what anyone thinks about me. I do my work with dignity and respect everyone. When someone tries to get at me to make me feel less, I let it go. I know their aim and I don’t feed it.
When you aren’t doing clinical work or advocacy, what do you like to do?
I have kids and I love to spend time with my family. My family time is priceless.
What has changed significantly for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
I would say the ability to meet in person. For instance, 500 women scientists usually has biannual conferences and we haven’t been able to do that this year. We had to do the first one virtually.
I agree; that is one area where almost everyone has been affected. Do you have a lot of Nigerian friends and colleagues?
It depends on where you live. I had to move from Boston to Michigan and I had a larger Nigerian community there than here in Michigan. I have a few friends and colleagues here in Michigan.
What do you miss the most about Nigeria?
I miss my family, both extended and immediate. I miss Nigerian food too. I try to make do with the African stores here but nothing compares to Nigerian food.
Haha, so true. Will you ever consider returning to Nigeria to practice?
I would love to do some work in pathology. As medical students, we were not adequately exposed to pathology as a speciality. So, I would love to come back if I get the opportunity to do some education in pathology.
How often do you visit Nigeria?
As often as time permits. It is not fixed.
Okay. Where do you see yourself or hope to be in the next five years?
I should be done with residency and have completed a fellowship in women’s health. I should be working as a pathologist advocating for women’s health and adding my voice to the global health space on why women’s rights are human rights and are critical to any country’s development and economy.
Awesome. I am excited for you and I look forward to that time. I hope we get to speak with you then.
Thank you for speaking with Pendical. We wish you the best in your endeavours.
Thank you so much for having me.