Fresh Faces - Ruth Legese, MD Class of 2024

UAlberta’s focus on global and Indigenous health made it an obvious choice for this new MD student, who looks to a future of advocacy for equitable health-care access.

Laura Vega - 04 September 2020

Ruth Legese begins her MD program at the University of Alberta with a passion for global health and an eye to a future of health-equity advocacy both here and in developing nations. Along with three of her friends attending different Canadian medical schools, she will share her journey on their new YouTube channel, Black Girls MD.

What inspired you to become a doctor?

I was inspired by my experiences as a refugee and a member of a foster family. I was born and raised in Ethiopia, where my family struggled to access the type of specialized health care we needed. Coming to Canada as a refugee, I was shocked at the disparity in health-care access I experienced between Canada and Ethiopia. This was one of the first encounters I had with health inequity, and it would later motivate me to return to various parts of East Africa to conduct research and other field work. Through these experiences, I truly fell in love with global health.

After settling down in Calgary my family began fostering children, most of whom were Indigenous. Having had the opportunity to live with and support Indigenous children in our home over the past 10 years, I have become quite passionate about addressing the barriers Indigenous people face in accessing equitable and just health care in Canada.

A career in global health as a physician would allow me to fulfil my interests in advocating for equitable health-care access for Indigenous people and refugees in Canada, and my desire to participate in health-care capacity-building efforts in East Africa.

Why did you choose the U of A?

I prioritized Canadian institutions that had strong global health programs I could participate in during my medical training, established connections in East Africa and research opportunities related to Indigenous health. This narrowed down my choices quite a bit.

This university has a well-established medical program and its Global Health program possesses strong connections with academic and medical institutions in Ethiopia and Uganda. I put most of my time and effort into my U of A application and accepted the offer before even hearing back from other schools. I am beyond ecstatic to be here!

Anything else you want to share about yourself?

I have a sister who is almost two years older than me and an eight-year-old brother (who is Indigenous) and is the shining star in my life. Given our age gap, my brother and I have more of a parent-child relationship instead of a typical sibling relationship. He is the sweetest little boy you could meet, and because he’s the baby of the family, I may coddle him a little too much! Most of my spare time goes to taking him out, playing, cooking or baking with him.
About Black Girls MD
When will your videos become available?

We have set up the channel, but we have yet to post our first video. We have filmed our introduction video and are in the middle of editing. It should be up in the next week or two. It has taken a lot longer than we thought to have this channel up and running as we did not anticipate editing together videos would be this difficult when we are all located in different cities!

What would you like to accomplish with this channel?

Our main objective is to offer mentorship to a large audience interested in pursuing a career in medicine by sharing our experiences and showcasing our journey as Black women going through Canadian medical school. We want to use our platform to foster a sense of community and inclusivity for the new generation of MDs from vulnerable, non-traditional and underrepresented backgrounds such as Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), while also advocating for social justice concerns within medicine.

How will this project influence or complement your career as a doctor?

The objectives of this channel align with my medical career aspirations of working with and serving vulnerable populations. If successful, this channel will allow my best friends and me to connect with BIPOC, refugees and other MD-hopefuls from underrepresented backgrounds—not only to support them, but also to learn from them and their experiences. It can help us learn to be better advocates for patients from a wider range of backgrounds in our future careers.

You can subscribe to the Black Girls MD channel and receive notifications of new videos, or follow them on Instagram and Twitter.