As we celebrate Black History Month, Melanin Medics has had the privilege of interviewing influential individuals who are doing extraordinary work for the black community, within the field of medicine. This week we had the pleasure of talking to Olamide Dada, the Founder and Chief Executive of Melanin Medics: an organisation for black current and aspiring medical students and doctors.
Please kindly introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Olamide Dada and I am the Founder and Chief Executive of Melanin Medics. Melanin Medics advocates for black medical students, aspiring medical students, and doctors. As Chief Executive, I oversee the organisation’s activities and developments, as well as managing the team and taking part in public engagements on behalf of the charity.
Tell me a bit more about your journey into medicine
I always knew that I wanted to study medicine but I was not always confident that I would get in. The area that I grew up in was relatively deprived and I knew that if I wanted to maximise my chance of getting into medical school, it would be best to attend a sixth form in a different area. However, when starting at a new school, the teachers do not really know your track record. My new Chemistry teacher did not want to give me the predicted grade that I needed for medicine even though I had performed well at AS Level. This was a big blow for me because I had finally summoned the courage to apply for a place at medical school, but it felt like that decision was now in the hands of a chemistry teacher. This was not fair and luckily my dad intervened! He spoke to the Head of Sixth Form who changed my predicted grades. I ended up achieving those predicted grades, getting three interviews and two offers, and I am now in my final year of medical school.
What inspired you to start this initiative/project?
At the beginning of Year 13, I found my mentor, a black female GP who had grown up in the same area as me. She was extremely influential in my medical application process. When I got to medical school, I remember looking around the lecture hall and wondering where all the other black students were. I started to question why there were not so many of us. Was it because we were not applying? Was it because we lacked support? Was it because we did not think that we could get into medical school? What was the problem? I started Melanin Medics to address these issues and increase representation of African and Caribbean people in medicine. Initially, I wanted to help people successfully gain a place at medical school, so I started a weekly blog to share my experiences and tips. As time progressed, I realised that there was a lot more to the problem than met the eye and that there were many factors influencing representation in medicine, throughout a person’s medical career. This realisation triggered the growth of the organisation!
What has been the most rewarding part of this project so far?
That’s a difficult one! I’d have to say meeting people who don’t know that I am a part of Melanin Medics and hearing them talk positively about the charity. For example, I’ve met people in the lower years of my medical school who have benefited from our support and achieved a place at medical school. It’s wonderful to see the influence that we have had on people, even if only in a small way.
So what does a typical week look like for you?
As I’ve mentioned, I’m still at medical school so I attend my placement every day from 9-5. I normally wake up early and take some time for myself - no emails or notifications. The silent mornings are definitely the best part of my day! I then head into placement and usually fit in a lunchtime meeting or work on my to-do list. Once placement has finished, I go home and make dinner, and probably have another meeting. Next, I get on with studying. Finally, I make sure that I get in contact with at least one of my friends or family at some point in the evening. I also take time to do some reading for pleasure before bed.
How are you able to balance this with your work commitments?
Managing my time can sometimes be difficult as final year can be quite demanding. I like to be organised and know what I have coming up. I structure my week to make sure that meetings and other commitments do not impede on my studying time. I also have a triaging system to decide how urgent things are - must do today, must do tomorrow, must do this week. Additionally, I try to be intentional about doing things that I enjoy. I believe that there are enough hours in the day to do what is important to you, it’s all about priorities.
Where do you see yourself and Melanin Medics in the next 10 years?
I hope to be stable and settled in my career. I aspire to be a GP and so would like to think that I will have completed my training in ten years time. I am also interested in getting more involved in healthcare leadership and management, particularly in the area of diversity and inclusion. I would like to advocate for the health of black communities in policy and public health initiatives. I am also very passionate about creating resources and mentoring young leaders, particularly as I founded Melanin Medics when I was quite young.
As for Melanin Medics, I see the organisation growing and having an international reach - specifically with regard to interactions with black doctors in North America who are also very underrepresented. Melanin Medics will redefine what it means to be a black doctor wherever you are. As black doctors, we have a lot of influence in our communities, often without even realising it. It is therefore important that we spread positive images of what it means to be a black doctor and advocate for black patients. As for policy and medical education, I hope that our training gets established as a vital part of the medical school curriculum. We will also be in a position to continue to drive policy change and continue to promote diversity in medicine.
What developments in medicine would you like to see in the next 10 years?
In 10 years time, I would love for medicine to have made substantial progress in better understanding of how to support diverse groups in medicine, what it means to have a diverse workforce, and I would love for there to be more diverse leadership. I wish to see black current and future doctors thrive in their medical careers without being fearful of racism, discrimination, differential attainment and disciplinary action. The freedom to be their authentic selves! It would also be great to see more black people in academia and at the forefront of change. Equally, I would like to see a reduction in health inequalities as it affects the black population.
If you have any advice for our current medical students and aspiring medics, what would it be?
Remember that anything is possible. There are so many incredible resources available to guide you on your journey. There are also a lot of people who want to give back - you don’t have to look far to find a role model that looks like you! Believe in yourself because you are more than capable of achieving your hopes and dreams.
What is the best way to support or get involved with your project?
Follow us on our social media and donate to our organisation if you can! We also have many opportunities to volunteer through mentoring and outreach events - sign up to our Networks for more information!
With thanks to our Founder and Chief Executive Olamide for taking the time to chat to us, keep doing the amazing work you're doing!