Black ExperienceHealth

Nancy Abu-Bonsrah Makes History at Johns Hopkins

History has been made at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s neurosurgical department.

In the 30 years that the department has accepted residents, there’s never been a black woman in the ranks — until now.

Nancy Abu-Bonsrah, of Ghana, becomes the first of the prestigious program that accepts just two to five residents and ranks second in the country, according to CNN.

Among its most notable alumni is Dr. Ben Carson, now serving as the United States secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“I am very much interested in providing medical care in underserved settings, specifically surgical care,” Abu-Bonsrah said in a statement. “I hope to be able to go back to Ghana over the course of my career to help in building sustainable surgical infrastructure.”

Abu-Bonsrah lived in Ghana until the age of 15, and also attended Johns Hopkins medical school.

In the announcement last week of her historic residency, she took to Twitter to proclaim, “What a way to begin the Sabbath! I still haven’t processed it yet but this is such an honor and a privilege to join the department at Hopkins to begin this next phase of my career. I’m so fortunate to have the continued support of my husband, family, friends and mentors.”

In the statement, she said she wants to be remembered for serving her community.

“Whether it is through providing quality surgical care or helping mentor the next generation of surgeons, it will be a dream come true,” she said.

The 26-year-old starts her training with four other residents in July.

Her interest in neurosurgery stems from a trip to Ghana she took in her winter break in her junior year of college to shadow doctors and learn more about the country’s health system, because she hoped to return there to work one day, she told the U.K. Independent newspaper.

“It happened that the physician I shadowed there was a neurosurgeon. I was impressed by his skill, and I was also impressed by his boldness in general,” she said. “Usually, when I think about brain surgery, I think the brain is sacred and you don’t touch it or do anything to it, but to see them do these remarkable surgeries, and have good outcomes was something that impressed me.”

She also noticed how “overwhelmed” the surgeons appeared to be, saying, “There were countless patients that they had to see and there are so few of them.”

“I thought it would be nice to combine my interest in this field with an opportunity to provide service back to my country and other countries that don’t have as much surgical infrastructure,” she said.

Harvey Cushing founded the specialty of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in the early 20th century. Another famous historical brain scientist, Walter Dandy, also worked at the institution.

Before she begins her residency, Abu-Bonsrah said she plans to relax, prepare for the course by reading, and travel to Ghana and to attend a conference in Los Angeles.

“My family and my husband are all very grateful and thankful for this opportunity,” she said. “People see our and my story and see how far my family has come, and it gives them inspiration that it’s possible for them as well.”

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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