Innovative Contributions to Medicine: Dr Annabel Sowemimo - BHM Edition

As we celebrate Black History Month, Melanin Medics have been lucky enough to interview several exceptional individuals who are doing amazing work to improve the health outcomes of the black community. This week we had the pleasure of talking to Dr Annabel Sowemimo, a junior doctor working hard to educate us all on the impact that different factors have on sexual and reproductive health in minority groups.

Please kindly introduce yourself and what you do?

My name is Dr Annabel Sowemimo and I’m a Community Sexual and Reproductive Health registrar. I work between gynae and sexual health clinics which usually involve unplanned pregnancy, miscarriage, endometriosis, termination of pregnancy and general gynaecological conditions. I also founded a collective – Decolonising Contraception, which aims to address the structural and historical determinants of sexual and reproductive health. Lastly, I’m a writer and I have a column for gal-dem called Decolonising Healthcare.

Tell me a bit more about your journey into medicine

Like most medics, I was introduced to medicine through family friends and my dad, who is a GP. When I was younger I had scoliosis and had to have back surgery at 14. Before the surgery, I wasn't really aware how much my life would change as a result as I now live with chronic pain. I'm glad I had the surgery but as a young person - nobody really explained the details to me as I think they thought I'd freak out. This made me realise that medical professionals are quite powerful people and how much we have a say, and how educated patients are can be very variable. Therefore we need to build more health literacy. I had this at the back of my mind when I went to medical school, but at the time I didn’t know much about the history of medicine and the different dynamics within medicine.

I studied anthropology in my third year of medical school and after learning about the colonial history of medicine, I felt like there was a lot of ignorance around medicine. So I decided to start Decolonising Contraception to address that in my own sector.

One reason why I decided to specialise in SRH is because I think it’s one of the specialities that is more open to change. I also felt like it aligned with a lot of my interests.

Why Medical Anthropology?

When I was applying to university I considered studying anthropology so I already had an idea of what it was. I’ve always had an interest in writing, I did English A-Level and have always enjoyed History and Drama. Intercalating in Medical Anthropology seemed like an opportunity to do something different and incorporate my love of writing into my medical career.

During medical school, was it important to you to maintain your creativity?