Some of the greatest joys can be found in community.

It is also one of the greatest sources of strength.

Both were on display at a reception for Black learners and physicians at Doctors Manitoba last week.

As we gather to celebrate Black History Month, I want to take this opportunity for us to honour those who have been trailblazers in medicine, because there are people who have taken this journey before we got here,” said Dr. Bunmi Fatoye, Medical Officer of Health. You can imagine how it was for them.” Dr. Fatoye, along with medical students Ben Woldu and Tobi Morakinyo planned the February 23 event hosted by the Doctors Manitoba.

We recognize our unity in diversity,” Dr. Fatoye added. We’re all from different Black parts of the continent. We recognize our resilience. We also recognize the Black excellence that we have contributed to health care in Manitoba.”

Dr. Fatoye hopes the event marks the beginning of something new.

There is strength in numbers. We have the mentorship. We have community. We have the opportunity to be a voice, whether it’s policy decisions that impact health care where they can come and consult us and get some perspective on the Black population. We have a huge opportunity.”

The evening had Dr. Jared Bullard reflecting on another recent gathering, the Black Physicians of Canada Inaugural Conference he attended last October in Toronto.

It was the utter novelty of walking into a room with 300 other Black doctors. And I think that was a very shared experience by all of us, because literally it was walk in, mouth drop, and look around and go wow.’”

Events like this demonstrate the power of community and connectivity, said Dr. Bullard.

One of the things I have the benefit of having as a pediatrician is that I often have Black patients, and when they come into the room, do they ever get excited. It’s always an opportunity to inspire them and say, I’m a doctor. You can be a doctor,’ and invariably that’s the conversation that we have.” 

He recalled the novelty of being a Black student in medical school, something that has changed more recently. When I heard about eight students in their first year, I was blown away. I was so happy about it. When I started my first year, I was the only Black doctor in a cohort of 300. The following year, I was one of two.”

Tobi Morakinyo, a medical student and leader with the University of Manitoba’s Black Medical Student Association, spoke about her experience. When we started, myself and Aisha (Haji Hussein), there weren’t a lot of us in medical school. We realized we needed to do something to improve representation.” She said giving back has been one of the greatest rewards, along with participating in the Black Medical Student Association of Canada.

The future is bright and I’m so happy to be here and establish some form of mentorship and connection — and looking forward to the future as a Black physician in Manitoba,” said Morakinyo.

Mentorship is so important, agreed Dr. Bullard. Over the years, I have had many, many excellent mentors. But from a professional and academic perspective, I have never had a Black mentor. And so I think that if I can take anything away from this, the opportunity is to have Black mentors. Events like this are really important. To continue to network, to continue to talk about our challenges and also to celebrate our successes. We are far stronger together and we really want to inspire those little boys and girls who are Black to look at us and be inspired to be doctors as well.”

Doctors Manitoba also believes Mentorship throughout all the career stages in medicine is critical. Our Mentorship Program is always looking for attending physicians and residents to become mentors and support medical students to thrive in medicine. 

Black Physicians interested in attending future events are also invited to contact Dr. Fatoye at fatoyeb@​mymts.​net.