Dr. Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw: A Black Man in a White Coat

Dr. Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw: A Black Man in a White Coat


My name is Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw. I am a second year orthopedic surgery resident at Duke University. Orthopedic surgery is focused
on increasing and maintaining people’s mobility. We’re focused on the bones and
the joints throughout the body. I usually wake up, 4:30 , 5:00 am, coming into work. People told me “Oh residency is hard, you don’t sleep much.” You don’t know what that
means until you actually go through it. There is an absolute deficit of
black males going into medicine. The problem is multifocal. We need to
take a harder look at what it is that is keeping our youth from doing whatever their destiny says they need to be pursuing. It seems like society wants Black men in
particular, to be apologetic or to be sorry for being in a certain place. My father taught me that you can be
unapologetically Black and be unapologetically excellent, and those two
things are not at all mutually exclusive. I’ve never had anybody say something
like “I don’t want a black physician,” but there are certain interactions where you can kind of tell, like they don’t necessarily trust you, don’t think you necessarily
are as good as somebody else. It could be for other reasons, because I’m tall I don’t know, because I’m skinny, but
it also could very well be because I’m Black and that is always across my mind. But
that’s not going to affect the excellent job I’m going to perform here. I was
trained to do this job, I’m excellent and I’m going do what I came to do. My parents are both immigrants from Ghana. My parents saw academics as ways to find
opportunities later on and to open up doors. I grew up in South Lake, Texas, which is
near Dallas. It was comfortable place to grow up. You know, a certain level of affluence lends a level of opportunity. There’s a tendency to want to track
students in certain directions. These are the gifted students, these are whatever
students, and that started early. That started early, that started way before they have developed to show who they’re really going be. You go to a school counselor at school I went to, that’s
affluent, and they have all these resources ready for. You to go to school,
that’s not as affluent, they may not have the same resources because it’s not funded the same way.
Only difference between me and anybody else not in my position is opportunity. I
was just givien opportunity and I see that as a responsibility on my part, to offer that opportunity to other people. I have a private kind of personality, I stay to myself. Left to my own devices I’d just be staying home, playing my saxophone at
church. I like to think I’m an introvert that plays an extrovert on TV,
but that’s not really an option. You know I’m a resident now and so now that comes with the responsibility to speak up. Duke University has one of the highest
numbers of minority students, so me and some of my co-residents started a
foundation, The Coalition of Black Physicians, CBP. A lot of medical school
becomes subjective, and becomes how well you interact with your team on the wards
in the hospital, which frankly oftentimes does not involve a lot of other black people.
A lot of people misunderstand you or misconstrue their interactions with
you and that can lead to you have a lower grade. Ultimately our job is to serve. I’m
coming to a patient’s room and it’s really not about you at all, it’s
about what does this patient need from me in this interaction. You’re there to provide
that. Coming into medicine with this concept and this notion that the leader
needs to be a servant, it changes your whole perspective and it’s important for
patients to feel like they have an advocate in system. To feel like whoever it is
they’re talking to is someone they can trust and who will advocate for them. You know when
someone is in a position where they’re sick it changes their whole life. They can’t do
what they need to do, so you kind of help people realize their potential through medicine, which is what I like about it. My name is Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw and I’m a Black Man in a White Coat

6 Replies to “Dr. Kwadwo Owusu-Akyaw: A Black Man in a White Coat”

  1. That's my brother and I am very proud of him. He has inspired me to be a better person and to help young African Americans succeed.

  2. I salute you my brother. I was born in USA but both parents are Ashanti. I am proud of the genius of our people. Bless you indeed.

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