DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Black History Month is a time to acknowledge that Black history is American history, a time to acknowledge the dreamers, the believers, the fighters, the pave makers of the Black community.
A time to acknowledge that although the barriers and the obstacles the Black community has had to overcome, still we rise. This is the story of one Wiregrass doctor who didn’t let those barriers or obstacles keep him down.
Dr. Wale Osunsanya grew up in Nigeria and was told by his father that he was going to be a doctor.
“Well it’s a different generation and also a different world, but I don’t know if the kids growing up in Nigeria these days are like that, but in my generation, your parents told you what to do; if you don’t do it, there’s a good chance you might get killed,” Osunsanya said.
Osunsanya helped his older sister study for her MCAT Exam, and that’s when his father suggested he should just take the exam as well. By 15, he was in medical school.
Nigerian schools were based on standardized testing that placed kids in their grades, not tied to age.
In 1997, Osunsanya moved to the states on an H1B Visa. He took his American boards for medical school a few years later and moved to Dothan in 2005.
Dr. O said he was one of three black doctors in town at that time.
“I don’t know what the problem is, even in Dothan, as big as Dothan is, how many black doctors do we have? Maybe five or six and guess what? Half of them are Nigerians,” Osunsanya said.
Dr. O said that minority representation in healthcare is important because patients feel more comfortable and more trusting if they have a physician that looks like them and understands cultural differences.
“If you don’t have representation you are not rising, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King that gave us this platform of freedom and without him who knows where we would be today,” Osunsanya said. “Black, white, it doesn’t matter. We feel more comfortable when we go into a place, and there are people like you in there.”
Dr. O says he recognizes there are some obstacles he and other minorities have to overcome. But he doesn’t let being black stop him from anything.
“You become whatever you want to become in this country based on your blood and sweat,” he said. “The harder you work, the more your rewards. Is it going to be more difficult for you because your black? Yes, it will be, but does that mean you can’t do it? No, I see it every day. Whatever you think you cannot do because you are black, there are black people doing already!”