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The immeasurable value of recruiting a suitable mentor

For Black History Month, Dr Kunle Ogungbemi shares his medical journey and personal experience working as a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) doctor in the NHS.

Dr Ogungbemi is an interventional neuroradiologist at St George’s Hospital in London where he also heads up the interventional neuroradiology service.

Dr Ogungbemi was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to London as a child. He studied Biochemistry and Medicine and graduated from medical school in 2007. He subsequently trained in clinical radiology – specialising in diagnostic and interventional neuroradiology.

One of the most positive developments in my medical career has been seeing a significant increase in the diversity of medical staff in the NHS. This is particularly true for female representation in medicine.

However, there is certainly still a long way to go, particularly when it comes to Afro-Caribbean doctors, with an emphasis on Caribbean representation and diversity at the upper echelons of the profession.

Progressive institutions

The NHS is probably one of the more progressive institutions when it comes to attempts at the provision of opportunities to BAME groups. This is not to say there are no issues or no room for improvement. Far from it. But relatively speaking, I think this is broadly true.

The second point I would make is to remind you that while it is undoubtedly true that there has been great progress in providing equality of opportunities, expectations for equality have also changed. And rightly so!

There will probably be many times in your careers when you will be reminded that things are so much better and fairer than they used to be; usually during times when you feel a need to challenge a perceived injustice. This may even come from well-meaning seniors and colleagues, or perhaps even BAME doctors themselves.

Immeasurable value

My advice is to identify this early on and carefully recruit suitable mentors throughout your career. They will be of immeasurable value throughout your career.

Remember that your mentors are likely to be of a different generation. As such, some will inevitably have different views on what they consider to be acceptable or even normal levels of prejudice. This is just an unfortunate consequence of the historical levels of prejudice and the need for previous generations to pick their battles – as in all probability, will you.

However, in my view, these generational differences in expectation are an important force towards ensuring generational progress in reducing levels of inequality. We need to embrace it and nurture it.