Medical School Resident Elected to Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians’ Board

Dr. Ramla Kasozi

Ramla N. Kasozi, MD, MPH, a third-year resident in the University of Minnesota Medical School's St. John's Hospital Family Medicine Residency, always knew she was going to be a doctor when she grew up.

"I remember the many frustrations and disappointments my parents experienced while navigating the healthcare system. Witnessing the impact of racial bias and the various microaggressions my parents experienced as Ugandan refugees really sparked my interest in becoming a doctor," she said.

Today, Dr. Kasozi serves as the first Muslim-elect Resident Director of Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP). In addition to her traditional board responsibilities with the MAFP, Dr. Kasozi hopes to address health disparities by promoting research and creating resources for doctors and patients of color. And, she will manage this in tandem with her residency training, providing community-based medicine to refugee families, communities of color and mothers of color seeking maternal care through specialty outreach clinics.

Dr. Kasozi's personal experiences have shaped her into the doctor and advocate she is today. As a refugee child in Canada, Dr. Kasozi remembers being appalled by the way her parents were treated by health practitioners. As a Black woman who had birthing complications in the U.S., Dr. Kasozi feels "lucky" to have survived the birth of her second child. And, as a doctor who has practiced medicine in both the U.S. and Uganda, Dr. Kasozi is looking to foster change throughout the U.S. healthcare and medical education systems.

Dr. Kasozi's exposure to different health systems around the world has driven her desire to tackle health disparities head-on in the U.S. She hopes that her work on the MAFP board is a start to what she sees as a long career advocating for the dismantlement of the systems and tools that promoted these disparities in the first place.

"Some say we, people of color, need a seat at the table. But, I'm very much an advocate of building an entirely new table," she said.

Her words are similar in sentiment to those of poet and civil rights icon Audre Lorde who once wrote that the "master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." However, where Lorde is referencing wide-scale systems of oppression, Dr. Kasozi is focused on only one institution. Dr. Kasozi's "house," if you will, is the medical industry. And, the "tools" are the instruments that are supposed to keep us healthy.

"The reality is that the field of medicine is riddled with clinical decision-making that uses racist tools to make diagnoses and to determine treatment options for patients that create more disparities," she said. "The spirometer, for example, was racialized by Samuel Cartwight and based on President Thomas Jeffereson's interpretive framework from his 'Notes on the State of Virginia.' In Jefferson's works, he elucidated that the negro had a deficiency in pulmonary function."

She also notes that the history of obstetrics and gynecology is rooted in the commodification of Black wombs. And, today, Black women continue to be 3-4 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes in the U.S. This, Dr. Kasozi says, could be because of Black women's "limited access to healthcare, which continues to lead to gross inequalities in prenatal care and emergency obstetric care." The limited access, she said, dates back to the field's original purpose to medically enslave Black women and is the product of hundreds of years of systemic racism.

"We need to find new tools that are meant for us all," Dr. Kasozi states. "And, that starts by including everyone in the conversations we're having; that's why I'm so excited about this position. It's a start for me and my community."

Looking forward, Dr. Kasozi knows that she will go on to practice "full-scope Family Medicine in underserved urban and inner-city communities while also working in academia." She will continue to work tirelessly to provide safe and equitable access to healthcare to refugee families and communities of color. Through incorporating translational research, establishing domestic and global health collaborations and focusing on refugee health and emergency preparedness in her career, she will keep fighting for medically marginalized communities. "I need to be with my people—young and old, men and women—we understand each other. There's a community that you can't find anywhere else," she said.

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