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Life and Work with Anisa Shomo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anisa Shomo.

Anisa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have wanted to be a physician since I was a young girl. I am unsure of the origin of this desire. I feel like I was called to the profession by an unknown force. During my youth I faced many obstacles to becoming a physician including poverty, family chaos, lack of family experience with professional careers, etc. Despite the obstacles, I graduated from medical school at age 26 then completed Family Medicine residency and Geriatrics fellowship training by age 30. I am now a board-certified physician in both Family Medicine and Geriatrics. Upon completion of my training, I was faced with the decision of how to start my career. I knew that I wanted a medical career that included aspects of public health. I considered many different options and was met with a great opportunity to be a community physician, advocate, educator, researcher and public servant. That Fall, I began working in school health at a K-12 public school caring for youth and their families and in nursing homes caring for older adults. 

In my school health experience, I learned many things. The most shocking was how little youth today learn about healthy sexuality in school. Through my research, I discovered that there was not sexual health education in my school at all and that the young children did not learn much about puberty (before, during, or after they entered it). In 2015, with the help of my learners, we taught students at the school about puberty, self esteem, and healthy eating. Subsequently, we were invited to help with other initiatives in the school to help educate the students about their changing bodies and growing up making healthy choices. 2 years later there were 2 things that made me decide to try a different approach, on a larger scale: 

1) I read the book Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein that was written right before the “Me Too” movement became popular. I learned more about the plight of young women and their lack of empowerment to know their bodies and really know what they want out of relationships and sexual experiences. I started to think about what solutions I could offer to young people about healthy sexuality beyond my personal community. I decided that I would start a YouTube Channel to discuss topics in healthy sexuality and general health as well. 

2) I was diagnosed with stage 1 Cervical Cancer. As a result, I was faced with my own mortality and also the decision of whether or not to discuss a taboo subject: gynecological cancer. Thankfully, I have been Cancer Free & Blessed for almost 2 years! It has definitely been a journey. One of the most difficult aspects in this journey was sharing this diagnosis with others. Surprisingly, I found in my journey of sharing my diagnosis with my peers, colleagues, family members, etc that many women have also been treated for cervical cancer or pre-cancers. Unfortunately, it is not often discussed and many women are unaware of the risk and may not prioritize this aspect of their health. I pondered reasons why it is not discussed and came to the conclusion that it is exactly because we are not comfortable discussing healthy sexuality and bodies parts that are considered to be sex organs. I decided that I would use my cancer journey as a way to reduce stigma surrounding cervical cancer discussions and raise awareness of this condition. I made a YouTube video about this topic. I also wrote an article for the National Black Press regarding this topic that was widely circulated and well received. 

I feel that I am living in my purpose and serving my calling. I am continuing in this journey of learning and spreading information about healthy sexuality, cervical cancer, and many other topics through my business DR SHOMO KNOWS. Through social media, writing, and speaking events, I discuss a number of health topics and share my personal journey as a cancer survivor. I hope that you will join me in this journey and Stay in the Know with Dr. Shomo.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One of my personal struggles has been impostor syndrome. Growing up in the inner city in a family with a lot of issues, I doubted myself in completing my training to becoming a physician. At times, I did not have the confidence that I would accomplish my dreams. What helped me overcome self-doubt is surrounding myself with positive people that build you up and believe in you when you do not believe in yourself. I would advise young women to choose your support system wisely.

What else should our readers know?
I want people to know that health is not a size. I encourage everyone to work on getting healthier for themselves. A lot of time we lose track of our health screenings, eating habits, fitness routines, etc. It is important to make time for your health and to do things for yourself. Many times, people work on getting healthy for their loved ones, and that is great too, but I want people to know that they are worth making themselves a priority just for them. It saved my life to prioritize myself over everyone else and go to a routine doctor’s appointment. Go to the doctor and keep up with your health. 

Who have you been inspired by?
My largest inspirations have been my sisters. I have 7 sisters and each one inspires me in different ways. When you have a large family, you end up taking on a lot of responsibility at a young age. Whether it is helping in the family business or taking your siblings to doctor’s appointments/school, you grow up fast. Amidst the chaos, you also can make a lot of missteps while trying to navigate your own life. Despite any missteps, my sisters have been the true examples of resilience and perseverance. They encouraged me to dream big and to go after my dreams. I appreciate them. 

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1 Comment

  1. Aunt Delores

    August 14, 2019 at 3:59 am

    Thanks Anisa for sharing this aspect of your life.

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