This is part of Thank You Notes, a series of letters offering gratitude to the people and things that inspire us most. Like many others, Allure has spent the pandemic looking inward. What we found was deep gratitude for the medical professionals that cared for our communities and our country during a profoundly difficult time. Then we wrote.
Dear Dr. Aisha,
First, I should really thank TikTok. Because that’s how in the midst of the pandemic, I, a New York-based beauty editor, found you, a badass Black nurse anesthetist, mentor, and entrepreneur living in Japan and pursuing her pilot license in her free time. We may not have all that much in common on paper, but through your social media content, I found your refreshingly transparent videos on positive mindset, building wealth, and harnessing happiness. While the world was in uncertain chaos, I was assured and inspired by you, watching you encourage your followers about entrepreneurship, gratefulness, and advocacy.
Growing up, I walked through the world with incredible ease — a white Midwestern student with tremendous privilege. I was allowed to question authority and deemed “plucky.” I was able to swap stories and compare experiences with every white student surrounding me for reassurance and encouragement. But you had the exact opposite — when you stood up for yourself, you were labeled difficult and obstinate. And you couldn’t turn to classmates to discuss a racist comment made by another student or teacher, because no one else noticed the commonplace derogatory slights.
Your experience was different. Even as a five-year-old, your first-grade teacher assumed your perfect spelling-test score was the result of cheating. You could have taken it to heart — heard the unwarranted criticisms, the microaggressions, the blatant racial biases — and allowed it to alter you, but instead you powered on (with the guidance of a steadfast, confident mother). Many years later while in nursing school, a mentor balked at your hefty goals, telling you not to dream so big or else you’d surely be disappointed. You could have easily been discouraged. And yet, you carried on with your head held high and dreams as grand as your heart.
You worked your way from RN to an advanced practice nurse, the only Black nurse in your class. That wasn’t unusual to you though. While your degree was an incredible feat on its own, it was especially so because only around 5 percent of physicians are Black, and only around 9 percent are nurses.
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Your entire life and career, you’ve been doubted, questioned, and challenged — but you haven’t let it get in the way of who you are meant to be. Instead, you’ve used your position to advocate for those without a voice. It’s heartbreakingly common for POC patients to feel unheard, disregarded, and invisible to a care provider — and that is exactly what has propelled you forward in your profession.
As a nurse anesthetist, you’re the one who administers epidurals during labor. When we spoke, you recalled your first meeting with a Black mother who was visibly nervous — not just about giving birth, but about her horrifying reality. According to the CDC, Black women have a maternal mortality rate three times higher than that of white women. The estimated national rate in the United States is about 17 per 100,000 live births — but it is about 37 per 100,000 live births for Black women. When you introduced yourself and explained you were there to listen and keep her safe, she instantaneously calmed. You assured her, “If you feel like you’re not being listened to, have them call me, and I will be here to advocate for you.”
You’re also motivated to mentor those beyond your physical reach, becoming a spokesperson for a rather unfamiliar emotion in nursing recently: joy. In this unprecedented time, mental health for nurses is understandably on a decline, and a lot of health-care workers are feeling underappreciated. On social media, you’ve started to bring nurses to the conversation of what it means to be truly happy and create the life you want. You educate around developing life skills outside of your profession: finances, investment, and encouraging followers to try new things.
Your biggest goal — as someone who advocates about health and social disparities — is educating anyone, no matter their background or where they are in the world, so they can spread the message. Educating others leads to understanding, which leads to advocacy — and that can be a catalyst for impossibly great achievements.
Thank you, Dr. Aisha, for being you. You're a nurse anesthetist, an educator, a mentor, an advocate — but you’re also a business owner, an investor, a soon-to-be pilot, a hiker, a vegetarian, and so much more. You can’t be defined by a single sentence — and that has inspired me in my own life. You’re more than just a job title or career, you are multifaceted, and you are manifesting a whole world of your own creation.