SEATTLE — A woman who came to the United States as a young refugee in the 1990s now leads the Seattle clinic where she was cared for as a patient.
Dr. Anisa Ibrahim was recently promoted to medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s Pediatrics Clinic. She said the promotion brings her story full circle.
“It's one that I'm honored and grateful for, but it’s also one that I've worked really hard, to be in a clinic that I am passionate for” said Dr. Ibrahim.
Dr. Ibrahim was brought to the U.S. in 1993 from Somalia when she was six years old. She said her family fled unrest from the Somali Civil War that began in 1992.
“We got to Kenya in 1992, and by 1993 we were resettled to Seattle," said Dr. Ibrahim. "That is a very short amount of time. The average amount of time a person spends in a refugee camp right now is 17 years."
She said she remembers a tuberculosis outbreak at her refugee camp, and her sibling getting the measles. When she arrived in Seattle, she and her sibling were treated at Harborview Medical Center's Pediatrics Clinic.
It was those experiences that made her want to become a doctor.
"I can say I know life is tough in a refugee camp," she said. "I know life is tough settling into a new country and not speaking English and not knowing where the grocery store is and being isolated from the rest of your family."
Dr. Ibrahim attended the University of Washington's School of Medicine and graduated in 2013. From there, she continued to do internships and her residency at the UW Department of Pediatrics.
Now, in her new position at Harborview Medical Center's Pediatrics Clinic, she gets to care for and do outreach for immigrant and refugee populations, with a focus on those from East Africa.
"It's amazing seeing children who I saw at three days of life now telling me about their first day of kindergarten," said Dr. Ibrahim.
Dr. Ibrahim emphasized that representation is extremely important. She said one thing she wished she had when she was younger, as a Somali refugee wearing a hijab, was someone who resembled herself.
"There are probably millions of little girls in refugee camps right now that are not being offered the opportunity to get an education that could probably be the next neurosurgeon," said Dr. Ibrahim. "It's the support that we're not giving them that makes them different from me, and it's not anything inherent to one particular person."