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Five Young Women to Watch: Sisters on the Move


As mothers raising the next generation of Black leaders, it’s good to take a look at this generation’s future leaders for a few teaching points.


By Annie Friedman

      When Naima Bridges was young, she would watch the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel to satisfy her curiosity about the human body. Despite the fact that there were no physicians in her family, she was not discouraged about getting into the field of science and medicine, so she decided to apply for the AMBI® Scholarship in Science & Medicine, and was one of the five women who won.

      Bridges, who is from the University of California, San Francisco, decided to apply for the AMBI scholarship because she liked the mission statement and dedication to science and medicine within the community. She grew up in the Bay Area of Northern California in a large family of six where her parents made sacrifices to make sure that their children had every opportunity possible. “I would like to work in a group medical practice focusing towards women’s health and obstetrics and gynecology in California, specifically working with women who may not have access to other forms of health care,” Bridges said. “As I become much older, I hope to travel and work with an organization such as Doctors without Boarders and contribute to popular health literature by writing a health column in a magazine for women of color.” She also has plenty of advice for girls who want to break into the field. “For young girls, I always tell them to first of all find a female mentor, someone who you admire in the field that interests you and do not listen to the advice of those individuals around you who say that you cannot go into the field of health, medicine, or science because you do not have any contacts or other family members in this field,” Bridges said. “If you have even the slightest interest, feed your curiosity, ask science teachers about interesting science projects to do or ask your doctor how you can get involved in the healthcare field as a young person.”

      The AMBI® Scholarship in Science & Medicine, which first launched in 2008, aims to raise awareness of minority women in science and medical fields where they are underrepresented, while offering financial support for continuing education. The scholarship program was inspired by Karen Morris-Priester, the first recipient of the scholarship.
      The AMBI® Scholarship in Science & Medicine recognizes rewards and supports African Americans and Hispanic women. Each of the five winners have a unique story to share on what motivated them to pursue their chosen career paths and what led them to apply for the AMBI® Scholarship in Science & Medicine. The winners were awarded $10,000 to put towards tuition for science or medicine programs at their chosen College or University in the United States.

      Linda Adebisi, from the Indiana University School of Optometry, decided to apply for the AMBI Scholarship in Science & Medicine because she felt she represents what the scholarship stands for and loved how it provides a mean for minority women to excel in the science and medical field. Adebisi was born in Atlanta, GA, but grew up in Nigeria; returning to the United States when she was 15 years old.  She first developed an interest in optometry as a child while in Nigeria. “In Nigeria as well as most African countries, visiting an optometrist is a luxury that only a small fraction of the population can afford,” Adebisi said. “People in Nigeria lose their sight as a result of eye disorder such as cataract and glaucoma that could be easily treated if detected early.”Adebisi had the opportunity to observe Dr. Alarape, a Nigerian optometrist and a close family friend, while he conducted eye exams and prescribed treatment for each patient. “I watch in awe as one person made a significant difference in the lives of my people,” Adebisi said. “I knew then that optometry is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

      Toni Aluko, from the University of Maryland, College Park, was motivated to apply for the AMBI Scholarship because of its unique focus on women of color who were pursuing or planning to pursue careers in Science and Medicine; fields in which women of color have traditionally been underrepresented. “AMBI’s creation of this scholarship is encouraging because it shows that they recognize how important it is to support women of color who are entering these fields,” Aluko said. “That makes me feel that I can walk confidently in the direction of my dreams.” Aluko’s decision to pursue medicine was something that she felt inside even before she was sure she wanted to do it. “Deep down, I always knew that I wanted to work in the health or medical field, either as a nurse, physical therapist or physician,” Aluko said. “However, it was not until the end of my undergraduate years that I took the time to think about what I genuinely loved, which was serving others and making a positive impact on the health of individuals.”

      Tanya E. Anim, from Florida State University, College of Medicine, applied for the AMBI scholarship because she has a strong desire to make a difference in the community by serving underserved populations, particularly minorities.“I believe that receiving this scholarship will help relieve some of the debt I have accumulated throughout my undergraduate and medical school career,” Anim said. “By graduating with less debt, I hope to taper my future financial obligations thereby allowing me to dedicate a great deal of my time to providing free and reduced services to underserved populations.” When Anim became involved in peer health education, she began to recognize the lack of awareness of health and medicine amongst minority students and young women. “I recognized that becoming a physician would enable to help minorities, particularly minority women and children, to care for themselves,” Anim said. “I encourage all young ladies pursuing a career in medicine to become active in their communities.

Amanda Elinor Ouzer, from Temple University School of Dentistry, developed an interest in the health field from a very young age. She began to read about dentistry, and as her fascination with it grew, she knew she wanted to become a dentist. “Dentistry has everything I could ever want in a profession: I get to earn my patients trust and bond with them, work with my hands in a creative way, but also implement my learned knowledge in a way that will allow me to benefit a patient’s health,” Ouzer said. “I can finish my work on a patient in a relatively short amount of time and smile on how lovely it has turned out, giving me a great sense of achievement every time.” Ouzer recommends people who have an interest in the science or medical field join a club or activity that will allow them get to know others with similar interests while networking within their school. She also suggests visiting school advisors so they can help figure out what profession to get involved in and point you in the right direction. “I was fortunate enough to establish a strong relationship with my advisers and even though I have graduated and entered another school I still keep in touch every day,” Ouzer said. “To me, they are a part of my family.  Four years will go by quickly and the people in your life will make the biggest difference.”

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