This Physician Believes Saying 'No' Is Key For Self-Preservation

"Before I am a physician, I am a friend, a daughter, and a mentor."

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

As the summer comes to an end, we must welcome the time for change. Say goodbye to summer and hello to cooler weather! And we know what that means ladies: We have to switch up our fashion trends, how we wear our hair, and even our skincare routines. When it comes to skincare, we as Black queens have to make sure our products are on point for all the seasons. It is crucial for us to protect our blessed and melanated beauty.

You would think with the amount of trends and dollars being put behind beauty brands, that there would be better representation in the medical field to help us understand our skin better from the jump. Unfortunately, Black physicians only make up 5% of the physician population, and if we want to talk about Black dermatologists specifically, well that number is even lower.

Recently, I interviewed Brianna Olamiju, a resident doctor who graduated this past May and is joining that 3% helping to keep all shades of our skin healthy and poppin'. Brianna's interest in medicine began during childhood. She wondered why few doctors looked like her. As a college student, she majored in race and ethnicity studies at Columbia University in New York City and went on to attend medical school at Yale University. Now that she's in a new chapter in her journey, Brianna is focusing on balancing her personal as well as her professional life.

"Before I am a physician, I am a friend, a daughter, and a mentor. While I love being a doctor, those are the titles I cherish the most."

Representation is so important for our community, in all industries. We must receive the best care from our doctors, especially those who look like us. In this installment of Finding Balance, we talked to Brianna about being a Black woman in medicine, setting personal goals, and the importance of your own self-care survival kit.

Courtesy of Brianna Olamiju

What is your WHY?

Brianna: Each and every day, I go to work to serve my patients. I know there are a lot of patients in need and I see the joy on some of their faces when I walk in the room and they see a Black doctor. My goal as a Black doctor is to help decrease healthcare disparities. I didn't see a lot of Black doctors growing up, so I aspire to be someone younger girls can look up to if they want to pursue the medical field as well.

At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?

So, as you can probably guess, medical school is very demanding. There were times where I would question myself about how badly I really wanted this. I remember studying for my first board exam for three months and it would take 8 to 10 hours each day. I would find myself feeling really sad and anxious during that time. Then, I realized I had to take a step back and start taking better care of myself. So I started reconnecting with my family and friends and added working out more into my routine to feel more balanced.

What did a typical week in medical school look like for you?

In medical school, each year is different. In my last year of my medical school, I did a research year, so I was studying dermatological conditions on [minority] patients. I would visit different patients and learn their stories of what they were experiencing. There were also times when I would run data stats to see what treatment options are best for patients to help their skin.

How do you wind down at night?

I usually try to go to a gym class because it gives me the structure that I need. In the gym, I've also been able to find community. The gym has really helped me let go of the day and get ready for the next one.

Courtesy of Brianna Olamiju

What advice would you give other Black women who are looking to pursue medical school?

Medical school can be hard for anyone, but [going to] medical school and being a Black woman can make things tougher. You are going to experience microaggressions and it's important to assert yourself to remind people that you belong there. We are needed in the field so you must push through, ignore the naysayers, and remember your why.

What would you say is your favorite self-care practice and why?

After a long busy day, I like to give myself quiet time. I like to reflect on the day and I like to reaffirm myself. Being the only Black woman can really negatively affect your self-confidence so I love meditation and my quiet time. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head all day, so during that quiet time, I am able to process my thoughts better. After being by myself away from the noise, I feel recharged and ready to take on anything.

What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?

To-do lists have been so key for me. Ever since college, I have been using to-do lists to help keep me on track. Checking off something from your list is a really good feeling, too. Another thing that I encourage women to do is to just say "no." While a lot of people want to get a "yes," saying "no" is a form of self-preservation. Saying "yes" all the time to different people can get so draining. So once you learn to say "no," it makes you feel better and it is the best boundary you can create for yourself in order to really prioritize self-care.

"I encourage women to do is to just say 'no.' While a lot of people want to get a 'yes,' saying 'no' is a form of self-preservation. Once you learn to say 'no,' it makes you feel better and it is the best boundary you can create for yourself in order to really prioritize self-care."

Courtesy of Brianna Olamiju

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?

I usually like to lean in on my people or my family for advice and get their feedback. But more importantly, I pray when I am feeling anxious and focus on calming my mind, whether that is [by] listening to some smooth R&B or meditative sounds.

What are some lessons about unhealthy habits you learned from in medical school that you apply as a full-time dermatologist?

I've learned that less is more. It is better to be involved in a few activities and completely immerse yourself in them rather than being in too many activities and spreading yourself thin. In the beginning, I thought it would look good on my resume to be involved in a lot of things to impress people, but I learned from my mentors that it is better to be deeper in a small number of activities than shallow in many activities. So when trying to balance it all, I'll make sure I have enough on my plate where I still have room to just breathe.

If you could create your own self-survival kit, what would be the top three self-care items you'd list?

On this list would be another list and that is my to-do list (laughs). The next thing on my list would be a reminder to get seven hours of sleep a night. Sleep is everything for me. My third item is my skincare routine. As a dermatologist, you know I have to add that in there, as cheesy as it may sound!

What does success mean to you vs happiness?

I consider success to be building your career and reaching those personal milestones—when you're really making sure you're growing every single day. For happiness, happiness is being at peace with yourself. You feel comfort with yourself, your future, and surrounding yourself with the people you love the most.

For more about Brianna, follow her on Instagram @brianna_med.

Learn more about Brianna by following her on Instagram @brianna_med.

Featured image courtesy of Brianna Olamiju

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