Laila Dumbuya's scholarship essay | Pacific Medical Training

Submitted 2021-11-05

I was diagnosed with type one diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, when I was eight years old. Finding this diagnosis was critical to saving my life, but there were people who made the process difficult. We visited the doctor numerous times but were not taken seriously or listened too based on preconceived notions the medical professionals had due to our skin color, gender and/or social economic background. I was turned away and diagnosed with a “stomach bug.” We were told to drink Sprite, eat crackers and soup, if my mother had of blindly followed those directions I would not have survived.  If it hadn’t been for my mother’s determination to get me to other clinics and hospitals in the hopes of finding someone who would listen, I would not be alive today. The greatest accomplishment I am looking forward to achieving in life is assisting and listening to those, like me, who have felt neglected by our healthcare system.

When I began to consider career options, I knew I wanted to assist people who were in similar situations as myself. I want people to feel as though they are being heard. I considered becoming a doctor, after further research, I concluded that nursing will be a much better choice because it is more hands-on and nurses are there to assist and listen to you. This reminds me of the amazing nurses who assisted me when I was just eight years old. It would have taken me longer to become more self-sufficient in managing my diabetes if the nurses who looked after me during my stay in the hospital had not provided me with diabetes management: education, nutrition courses, and some therapy. They encouraged me to do things on my own and made sure I knew what was going on with my body, especially my pancreas.

It’s critical to me as a black woman that I support other people of color, especially black women, to look after them and their children when they’re going through a medically stressful situation.  Life is already hard enough without having to add medical issues on top of everything else.  Nursing plays such a vital role in mental, physical, and emotional well-being when you’re in the hospital.  A nurse’s job, from my experiences, can either help or hinder a patient’s ability to cope with medical adversities and/or issues.  I have encountered both great and not-so-great nurses, and I’ve experienced firsthand how important and influential a great nurse can be. It can literally mean the difference between life and death, and I will always choose life!

I am currently in nursing school earning my Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree with an emphasis in business and healthcare management.  Upon completion of this degree I plan to earn a Master’s and a Doctoral degree.  So that I may open a clinic, and eventually establish a hospital.  I want my clinic and hospital to be a safe haven for people of color, where they can feel at ease and heard. Many people of color must actively seek clinics and hospitals who will not only listen to them, but to also provide adequate care, which is a shame. We have moved on from segregation, but we have not moved on from the overt racism that people of color face when seeking medical care. I want anyone who comes into my clinic or hospital to know that they will be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race or economic status.  They will be listened to, their concerns taken into consideration, their questions answered, and their fears assuaged in a nurturing environment.

Having that terrifying experience at such a young age made me reflect on how people of color are handled in the healthcare industry, and I decided to make a difference. A recent article titled “How We Fail Black Patients in Pain” dated January 6, 2020 further solidified my stance that there is a lot more work to be done. This article shows how over half white medical trainees believe myths such as: black people have thicker skin or less sensitive nerve endings (this is in addition to preconceived biases and prejudices).  These are medical trainees who are failing future black and brown patients already.  Knowing this, I have chosen to be the change that needs to happen, to educate and advocate for people that look like me. I know I have a long way to go, but I know that if I make one person feel noticed and understood, I would be more than satisfied with life.