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A Career in Sexual & Reproductive Health

The Melanin Medics Blog Series showcasing black Medical Professionals in various Medical Specialties. Sharing their journeys, challenges and life lessons. #RepresentationMatters. This week we're featuring a Community Sexual & Reproductive Health (CSRH) Registrar: Dr Annabel Sowemimo!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey so far

I am currently Community Sexual & Reproductive Health (CSRH) Registrar based in Leicester and I also run Decolonising Contraception - a collective of Black & people of colour working in sexual health. After completing my foundation programme, I completed an MSc in Sexual & Reproductive Health research at the London School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene and also a Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene with MSF.

Why did you choose this Specialty?

Throughout medical school I had such varied interest loving science and the humanities - I was on Drama Society and organised an outreach project called DramaJam, I was President of Student’s for Global Health and editor of their magazine at one point. I intercalated with Medical Anthropology and after that i was set on finding a special that built on the social science skill set I really enjoyed. CSRH is such a wonderful mixture of all my interests combining clinical practice, public health & management and leadership. There is a huge scope for research, innovation and community work - I just don’t there is any other specialty like this.

What your role in this specialty entails?

On a day to day basis, I work between the community sexual health clinic and the hospital gynaecology department. My competencies include gynaecology including menopause & early pregnancy care, genitourinary medicine, psychosexual health, managing sexual assault and lots more. You have Consultant’s with quite a wide scope of clinical practice.

During your time in Medical School, did you enjoy this specialty?

I don’t think I discovered CSRH existed until my final year of medical school. Nationally, there are only about 36 trainees currently and there were far fewer when I was at medical school. Even now most other specialties are not really sure what we do and who we are. CSRH use to be a sub-specialty of O&G but in 2010, it became it’s own specialty and we have been growing ever since.

What is your greatest achievement till date?

Definitely founding Decolonising Contraception which discusses the health inequalities amongst Black & people of colour within sexual & reproductive health (SRH) by having the difficult conversations about race and culture that people struggle to have. When I started I was nervous that people wouldn’t get it or my colleagues may not be supportive however, I have since spoken at the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Health (FSRH) conference and the British Association of HIV (BHIVA) conference. We had a stand at the British Association of Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH) conference this year and I had such amazing conversations about the barriers between doctors and patients. We also do public engagement events and this year I have spoken to so many Black women about their reproductive health - I just really want to make sure I can advocate for the people that don’t get to sit in the rooms I do.

What has been your biggest challenge working in this specialty so far?

I think CSRH being small and new is a challenge. Firstly, when I applied there were only four jobs nationally. I had my heart set on doing CSRH so I knew that I would go wherever that job was yet, I understand that other people may not be able to move around as freely. I now have an ST1 which is great but for two years I was the only CSRH trainee in my city and they hadn’t had one before so, there can be a lot of logistical hiccups and you have to be incredibly organised.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I can’t sit still which I think is partly due to dyslexia - my mind is always working over time. I love writing and I write for a few platforms and Black Ballad are my favourites. They have really made an incredible space for people like me and it is so great reading the work of other women of colour too. I sit on a few committees including the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Health International Affairs Committee and I am a trustee for Medact.

When I’m not doing all this I release my strength at the gym (yes I am one of those awful people who likes exercise..sorry) - I took up boxing a few years ago and I had a very solid jab!

What advice would you give to someone interested in this specialty?

Don’t be put off by the competition ratio! If you think this is the right specialty for you then, you are probably right and it goes beyond your academic potential. Make sure you know what CSRH involves and the issues the specialism faces, try to do a taster week and come to along to FSRH events. It is an incredibly friendly specialty and some of my colleagues have become amazing friends.

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