Black mother-daughter duo start their medical careers together – TODAY

As the Kudji women prepare to start their residencies during the coronavirus pandemic, theyve embraced a unique perspective on the unusual circumstances. As a mom, I'm very concerned about starting in the middle of a pandemic. We worry about having enough PPE. I worry about my child, potentially being exposed to COVID. But at the same time, you know, this is what we signed up for.

At the same time, it also gives you an opportunity to see disease processes that you probably would never see, be a part of a solution that you probably never get an opportunity to be a part of, you know, and really get an opportunity to educate the public. So it's all about perspective and what you can contribute during this time.

Although it has been 156 years since Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African American woman to earn a medical degree and 121 years since Dr. Emma Wakefield-Paillet became the first black woman to practice medicine in Louisiana, the number of black females pursuing medicine hasnt grown much since.

In a 2019 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, only about 5%, or 45,534 of physicians surveyed identified as black or African American. Kudji said, It's honestly not very common. Like 2% of physicians are African American women. Even at the hospital that I'm going to start working at, there's only one African American female surgeon out of probably about 50.

Female surgeons in general are just uncommon. It's not often that I see people that look like me in my field so that's why it's so important to us to make sure that we do show our faces and spread our story.

It's so important because when I was coming up, I remember watching 'The Cosby Show' or 'A Different World,' and we would all run to the television in college when that show would come on because you didn't have that. It was the first time you saw an African American doctor, African American attorney and a family and you saw that image before you," Kudji Sylvester said.

To give young black girls and women a look into their lives, the Kudjis are sharing their personal experiences online. Kudji explained, We created a blog called The MD Life, where we try to explain some things that we struggled with, like how to apply to medical school, how to get into medical school, how to become a surgeon, and explain it to people and provide information that we wish we would have had from the beginning.

Both mother and daughter will start their residencies on July 1. Kudji Sylvester will be based in Lafayette, Louisiana for three years while Kudjis surgical rotation will last five years and require her to travel between Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans.

When you're young and you don't see someone that looks like you doing something that you want to do, when you see other people doing it, you kind of start to think well, maybe these people are inherently somehow better than me," Kudji said.

"And so, that's why I think representation matters. It shows young people or even older people that, no, there's nothing inherently wrong with you, you're not less intelligent or less capable. You know, you can do it too.

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Black mother-daughter duo start their medical careers together - TODAY

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