Ghanaian mother Dr Cynthia Kudji and her daughter Jasmine Kudji both graduated from medical school this year from two different universities and now they will be working in the same hospital in America.
It was a huge thrill for the mother and daughter doctor duo because after years of studying medicine at a distance—Cynthia was in St. Kitts and Maine at UMHS while her daughter Jasmine was at LSU School of Medicine in Louisiana—the two will be working in the same hospital system starting July 1, 2020. These groundbreaking women are the first mother and daughter to attend medical school at the same time at the same institution.
The mother and daughter doctor duo took time to speak to the UMHS Endeavour via telephone, enthused about sharing their inspiring story in this very unusual spring of 2020, a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is killing thousands in the U.S. and doctors are so desperately needed on the front lines.
Dr. Cynthia Kudji, originally from Ghana, West Africa, has come a long way from being a 23-year-old student and pregnant with daughter Jasmine, when she had to put dreams of becoming a doctor on the back burner. She eventually became a nurse and worked as an RN and a Nurse Practitioner for nearly a decade before deciding to attend medical school. The UMHS Endeavour spoke to Dr. Kudji about her journey through medical school at UMHS and how outstanding professors and staff made a big difference for her as a nontraditional student. In addition, she and daughter Dr. Jasmine Kudji talked about the unique challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, why African Americans have been especially affected by the virus, and more.
Dr. Kudji admits she didn’t always plan on becoming a doctor. When she was young, there were few physician role models on TV for African Americans.
“I remember when we were young there were TV shows like ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘A Different World,’” she said. “Seeing African Americans in college or being successful was like firsts. So, for me it wasn’t like ‘Oh, yes, I want to be a physician’. It was more like, ‘Oh, no, can I really do this? Or, ‘Am I smart enough to do it?”
Dr. Kudji was born in the village of Kenyasi in Ghana and came to the United States at age two. It was during a trip back to Africa to visit relatives that she was inspired to become a doctor.
At the time, she did not realize that, just like in “third world” countries, there is often the same lack of access to health care in the U.S.
Dr. Kudji went to Tulane and received a BS in biology as an undergraduate and then attended nursing school at William Carey University and later went on to Loyola University to earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing. She worked as an RN and an NP but eventually decided, after being in nursing for almost a decade, that she wanted to become a physician.
Her daughter, Dr. Jasmine Kudji, was attending med school at LSU while her mother was at UMHS in St. Kitts. It was rough at first for both of them.
“I think initially it was difficult because my mom and I have always been really close so I had to get used to the distance, we had to learn how to FaceTime and Skype each other, so we were Skyping each other every day and whenever I had struggles and she had struggles, we just had to learn to communicate from a distance,” Dr. Jasmine Kudji said. “But I think over time we figured it out.”
The mother-daughter bond they had always shared was strengthened with both attending med school simultaneously.
Because both women look so young, it’s often hard to tell them apart. Do people mistakenly think they are sisters?
“All the time,” Dr. Cynthia said with a big laugh. “I’ll take it. I’ll take it.”
Dr. Jasmine added, “I’ll never forget when my mom came to lunch with me my freshman year of college and the guys were like ‘who’s this new girl?’ “
Dr. Cynthia Kudji credits her parents, daughter Jasmine and the faculty and staff at UMHS for making everything possible.