Introducing Nwadiogo Ejiogu
Nwadiogo Ejiogu, MD, MA is a physician-activist committed to supporting intersectional organizing efforts for health justice. Throughout her education and training, she has had the privilege of working collaboratively within social movements for Black queer and trans liberation, prison abolition, disability justice, reproductive justice, and health equity. Her scholarly work uses critical self-reflection and personal narrative to identify ways medical providers and institutions have cared for and harmed patients from marginalized communities. Dr. Ejiogu holds an MD from Meharry Medical College, she completed her MA at OISE and her undergraduate degree in Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity at the Univeristy of Toronto. Dr. Ejiogu completed her residency training in anesthesiology at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, and a fellowship in obstetric anesthesiology at Mount Sinai West in New York City.
Please tell us a bit about yourself (personal, academic background, and current profession)
My name is Nwadiogo Ejiogu, I use she/they pronouns. I identify as Igbo, Black, queer, non-binary, and feminist. I am currently a physician based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am an anesthesiologist working specifically with Black birthing people trying to figure out ways to create birthing experiences that are more joyful than harmful. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta and as soon as I could relocate to Toronto, I did. Education was a way in which I could escape environments that were not conducive to my growth, so I am very grateful for being able to leave Calgary and move to Toronto. During my undergraduate studies, I started in life science, I also took classes in social-cultural anthropology which I enjoyed, although I did like to critique anthropology as well. Critiquing that formal discipline is what led me to Equity Studies. I did my Masters at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) in the SJE (Social Justice Education) department. During my time there, I began thinking more about medicine and how it can be used as a tool of domination and power. Being very critical of the field, I decided to pursue more hands-on work after my master’s degree. I studied so much about medicine and doctors who are critical of medicine, so I decided to delve into the field. I went to Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, a historically Black medical school a part of the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). My experience at Meharry Medical College was a really rich experience that allowed me to continue my healthcare journey in anesthesiology. The Equity Studies program was a huge part of answering the ‘Why’ behind most things that I do in my career and personal life, it was also a huge influence in terms of my career path and personal life path. CSES is critical thinking with history, which is a really important skill for anyone to have. My parents are immigrants, so they did not grasp the complexities of Equity Studies at first, but the amount of critical thinking skills it fosters in people is unmatched. I am extremely grateful for my background in CSES and have had some incredible teachers and mentors.
What drew you to CSES?
At first, I was taking Anthropology classes, but more old-school Anthropology. For example, it included studies on how a Southern African tribe eats a certain amount of grain, and that didn’t sit right with me. The discipline was talking about my family and community members in a very “exotic” way rooted in the white-male gaze. In those classes, I found myself gravitating toward the people who were trying to push back and I appreciated their frameworks and it resonated a lot better with me. Those experiences led me to seek out other program offerings at New College such as Critical Studies in Equity Solidarity, Caribbean Studies, and Women and Gender Studies which are very interdisciplinary studies that focus on marginalized communities. I was drawn to CSES because I wanted to push back the very old way of thinking about a discipline and reflect on my personal experiences and the communities that I come from.
Tell us about the work that you do. How has CSES/ES influenced your academic, professional, and/or personal journey? What are some accomplishments or achievements that you are most proud of?
I use the critical thinking skills I developed in CSES in my everyday life and with every interaction I have with every part of the world. Through the program, I learned to engage with history from a contemporary standpoint and think more deeply about power, dynamics of power, balances of power, and access to power. CSES by nature is very interdisciplinary and intersectional, I learned about Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality and had the opportunity to engage with program syllabi that discusses disability studies, disability justice, anti-racism, queer and transgender liberation all in one space. The program was foundational to how I understand myself in relation to the world. As a physician, I have different encounters with people who utilize healthcare systems, and through that, I can better understand the different power dynamics that exist within those encounters. For example, I was grateful to be in a community with a lot of intersex activists of colour who were working on transforming really harmful practices at a hospital where I worked at. I was grateful to be part of their movement, listening to them, being in the community, and doing as much as I can from within the medical institution to make change. The community organizing work allowed them to have Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago release a statement that they would stop doing surgeries on intersex children. This is a major accomplishment, considering they are one of the first hospitals in the United States to do so. I am so grateful to have witnessed their power of organizing and commitment to equity in demanding essential change from such a large institution with a lot of money and influence. CSES has many implications in different disciplines and I am grateful to be able to carve out spaces where I can be both really excited about obstetric anesthesiology and also talk about the social justice implications of that work. I am really proud of staying true to all the things that I think are important and doing work within the community.