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 So-mali Civil War that began in 1992.
“We got to Kenya in 1992, and by 1993 we were resettled to Seat-tle,” 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 get-ting the measles. When she arrived in Seattle, she and her sibling were treated at Harborview Medi-cal Center’s Pediat-rics Clinic. It was those experiences that made her want to become a doctor.
“I can say I know life is tough in a refu-gee 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 iso-lated from the rest of your fam-ily.”
Dr. Ibrahim attended the Uni-versity 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 dif-ferent from me, and it’s not any-thing inherent to one particular person.” ■