May 25, 2023
Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador Spotlight: Dr. Kwaku Obeng
The College of Medicine’s clinical and basic science departments, centers, and educational offices are all working to develop more inclusive and equitable practices. Our Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors are charged with leading these efforts.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to medicine and, ultimately, to the University of Kentucky?
A: I am a brother to three sisters and the father of three girls. I was born in Accra, Ghana. Both my dad (a diplomat) and mom (an elementary school teacher) always stressed the importance of school and encouraged us to strive for the highest standards in all that we did. I spent early childhood in Algeria, then moved to England, France, the Ivory Coast, and finally Ghana before spending the majority of my life in the United States. Thirty-two years ago, I emigrated from Ghana to the United States, where I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., then my graduate degree at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Penn. My current positions here at the UK College of Medicine are as an assistant professor of radiology, fellowship program director for neuroradiology, and diversity and inclusion ambassador for the College of Medicine Department of Radiology.
Q: What made you want to become a diversity and inclusion ambassador? How has your experience been thus far?
A: As I looked to the past for motivation in my future health care profession, I was reminded of the reasons I first wanted to become a doctor: the opportunity to use my education and training to improve the health of underprivileged populations. Having grown up as the son of a diplomat, I can now say that I’ve lived in a number of different countries. I remember feeling like an outsider and a minority in many of the groups I was a part of. It was then that I first felt compassion for marginalized groups and learned about the economic and health care gaps that exist between different regions. It was also then that I made up my mind to devote my life to improving people’s health and fostering more welcoming communities. As a person of color and an expert, I frequently find myself in settings where I notice a lack of diversity and untapped potential. By taking on the role of an inclusive leader, I hoped to hone my capacity for empathy and develop the confidence to help release the full potential of teams that reflect society at large.
Q: What expertise and/or past professional experiences are you bringing into your work as an ambassador?
A: Because of my unusual upbringing, I have been able to devote significant time and energy to cultivating meaningful personal and professional relationships with others, all while working to minimize my inherent biases, increase my adaptability, and maintain an open mind. One of the most important qualities in a diversity and inclusion ambassador, in my opinion, is a willingness to put one’s own needs and desires aside for the greater good of any diversity-focused projects or initiatives. I’ve had the good fortune to work with colleagues who are both underrepresented in medicine and from various backgrounds. In my capacity as editor-in-chief of our department’s diversity newsletter, my aim has always been to foster a welcoming environment where everyone feels safe to express themselves honestly and their input is appreciated.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A: When I thought about leaving my chosen field of study, an older cousin once told me, “While it may be intimidating, even feel like a reckless attempt, history is full of examples of improbable success stories being accomplished with the appropriate mindset and some good ol’ hard work and persistence. Never consider giving up.”
Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?
A: If we define diversity as a group of people who have diverse perspectives and experiences, then an inclusive person is someone who knows how to make the most of this wealth of difference. We must work hard to communicate in a way that is inclusive of all ideas if we are to maximize the benefits of our DEI initiatives and realize the potential of a diverse campus community.
Q: Do you have any goals for your department that you hope to accomplish over the next year?
A: This upcoming year, I intend to build a summer training program in our division that will allow me to inspire more students from underrepresented groups to pursue specialization in radiology.