A young neurologist teaches black women and fights against inequality

Eseosa Ighodaro, MD, PhD, is a neurologist currently working on addressing health disparities. But he kept his first experiments on ice at home.

“I used to hide the experiments in the freezer so my mother wouldn’t see them,” he says. “I would mix orange juice, pepper and salt to see if I could cause a chemical reaction.” Afterwards, my mother went into the kitchen and asked, “Where are my ingredients?” He called me “Doctor” even before I knew I wanted to be a doctor-scientist.

In the family dining room, Ighodaro’s father set up a blackboard with erasers and markers to teach his daughters math and science. He came to the United States from Nigeria in his 20s with $20 in his pocket. Working part-time while earning her computer science degree, she had no patience for excuses.

“At the weekend, when other kids were playing outside, he would ask, ‘Where’s your science book?’ Where is your math book?” says Ighodaro. “I went to university with the idea that I could take over the world!”

The results kept coming. Ighodaro became the first black woman to graduate from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 2019 with a combined MD/PhD degree. A medical school neuroscience class made me fall in love with the brain. So after graduation, he went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for a neurology and neuroscience research residency. He will then receive a vascular neurology fellowship at Emory University, where he plans to become a stroke specialist.

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But her goals go far beyond her degrees.

Fighting health inequalities in neurology

Ighodaro plans to address the health disparities surrounding strokes in the black community. That includes studying how chronic racism can increase stroke risk — and help prevent black people who already have one from having another.

He has already gained national fame as a lawyer and teacher. Another doctor’s death due to COVID-19 – Susan Moore, MD, an internist in Indiana — it was a turning point.

Ighodaro saw the videos Moore posted on Facebook while he was in the hospital and seriously ill. Moore described how she begged for a CT scan and the antiviral drug remdesivir and how she was refused pain medication. “If I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through this,” Moore said in a video. “That’s how they kill black people when you send them home and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.” Moore was discharged from one hospital on December 7, 2020, and returned to another just 12 hours later. He died on December 20, 2020.

“Watching the video, I was angry,” says Ighodaro. “It was unacceptable! A black female doctor begging to be seen, treated as a human, only to be fired. She died of complications from COVID-19 because a system in which she worked to care for patients treated her like a drug seeker.

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Ighodaro assembled a panel of eight black female physicians and medical students. They released a video titled “Tragedy: The Story of Dr. Susan Moore and Black Medical Disparities” about what Moore’s death meant to them. Its success inspired Ighodaro to produce two additional panel discussion videos: one on racial health disparities in fertility, labor, and delivery, and the other on racism in medical publishing.

The response to his videos pushed Ighodar to create to Zieng (“zee-en-bay”), a non-profit health advocacy organization. The word means “endurance” in the Edo language of Nigeria, his father’s people. Ziengbe’s mission is to eliminate neurological and other health disparities facing the Black community through advocacy, education and empowerment.

“I want us to treat this problem like a medical emergency,” like treating a stroke, Ighodaro says. “If we don’t, black people will continue to die.”

Educating the next generation

Ighodaro also pays attention to the doctors and scientists who follow him.

One of her first projects with Ziengbe was to use social media to support, educate and mentor youth from communities of color and other underrepresented groups interested in a career in neurology.

“I had such wonderful mentors who were instrumental in my becoming a neurologist,” she says. But he sees “so many students” who don’t.

Ighodaro has virtual neurology study groups. It uses email, WhatsApp and social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and has grown to a community of nearly 500 students and mentors. Over the past year, he has held more than a dozen online study sessions on topics such as stroke management, seizures and traumatic brain injury, and preparing first-year interns for their first practice in a hospital ward. The videos are archived online via the Ziengbe website.

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Helped students publish their work, establishing them as neurology residency candidates. “Some of them have never written a paper like this in a medical journal before,” says Ighodaro. He also speaks to medical professional societies such as the American Academy of Neurology about using social media to recruit the next generation of physicians, empower underserved populations, and address racial disparities in health and healthcare delivery.

“One of my primary goals is to recruit more people of color into neurology and neuroscience, especially black women,” says Ighodaro. “I try to be the mentor I wanted to be when I was younger. During my studies, it was rare for me to see a black neurologist or a female neuroscientist teach, or even meet one.”

Her favorites include those too young to know their potential.

“I want to show little black girls that we’re here,” Ighodaro says. “The road is hard and can be lonely at times, but we can do it. We just have to dream big.”

Source: https://www.webmd.com/stroke/features/eseosa-ighodaro-neurologist-profile?src=RSS_PUBLIC