Recently, Emmanuel caught up with Dr Loretta Ogboro-Okor, a medical doctor in the UK specialising in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. We have had several discussions around different professions, career expectations, good practice and tools for developing the aspiring professional. I am very glad Loretta has chosen to share her views with APH readers on what it is to be “a professional”
When I was approached by the APH team, I decided to write about something I have often pondered about over the years.
“When aspiring to be a Professional, to what end is it?”
‘Who is the Professional?’
“What does the word professional bring before our mind’s eye when we hear it?”
Why become a professional to start with?
Wikipedia states that a professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified professional activity. The Business dictionary online defines it as – a person formally certified by a professional body for belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice and whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards. These definitions give the impression that Professionals should be elite groups, who have met some certificate requirements, who meet some tick box criteria, who in addition, speak and act in a particular way.
In this article, I would like to disagree and challenge the conventional definitions or thought processes. We need to start seeing beyond our societally imposed stereotypes. Often, I smile when after meeting people for the first time at many gatherings, they take another look at me, and then say “when I first saw you, I would never have guessed you are a doctor”. ‘Why?’ I often ask and the answers have often revolved round “you do not look like one or you do not come across as one”. To which I have often responded, “So, how do Doctors look?” The truth is I am genuinely very keen to know what lies beneath these thought processes that often generates these impressions people express to me later after having met me for the first time. I have had a range of answers over time and being the researcher that I am, I have done a qualitative style research and analysis of the informal data I collect and collate.
Some answers I have found revolve around the themes highlighted below:
- ‘Doctors often do not exhibit the breadth of knowledge and mastery of other subjects outside of their field of specialization you just displayed’
- ‘Doctors are boring’
- ‘Doctors do not look this good’
- ‘Doctors do not seem to possess a fashion sense like yours’
- ‘OBGYNs have an air of pride around them, which you do not have’
- ‘You are not as conservative as the average Doctor’
Whether these emergent themes are complimentary or not, I have often never bothered about it. What has bothered me is the fact that without knowing it, society has by omission or commission, created and continues to want to maintain stereotypes for every Profession. It is ironical that in today’s world where we preach that every life counts and equal opportunities should abound, devoid of gender, ethnicity, race or religion, we still stack ourselves in boxes.
We still restrict certain children from venturing into certain areas saying they “do not have an aptitude for xyz”. In the reality that is life, no other person should have the final say on another’s aptitude or abilities. Others may guide and guard, but only an individual should retain the exclusive preserve of what they ‘think they can or cannot do’ “what they think they have an aptitude for or not”. Bearing in mind, that what one aspires to or can do, is dynamic and could vary over a life span depending on one’s circumstance or state of mind or how much you can refute the stereotypes. We saw and will continue to see how these things played out or are playing out in the lives of men and women like Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edision, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Maya Angeolu, Stephen Hawking, Christine Amanpour, Dolly Parton, Denzel Washington, Barack Obama, Douglas Okor and many persons around us.
The world tries to programme you. Just like the world programmes the rest of us to view you in a particular light because of either the way you have been born or what you are. Should mental blocks be further erected higher by standards and paper certificates accompanied by long tick box criteria set by others, to decide what you profess?
In my opinion, what you profess from the very depth of your being should be what makes you a “professional” which logically implies that anyone can therefore be a “professional”. That is not to say that when you profess things to yourself and do not put in the needed work positive results will appear by magic. No, positive results do not appear by magic. However, the take home message is not to be stagnated by written or perceived societal standards in choosing a profession or life path. Recently, I was elated to see a lady with vitiligo working as a “Professional Runway Model”. Had she allowed the conventional definition of “Professional Model” to becloud her belief in herself and what she aspires for, she would not have taken the risk or leap of faith to ever go near a runway with “her patchy skin discolouration”.
Should you decide to be a teacher for instance, you do need to seek out the required knowledge and skill – acquire them. Let your passion and visions for teaching propel you. You do not need to change your accent like a friend of mine was told 5 years ago.
She was told that to get onto the special educational need coordinator (SENCO) professional ladder in the UK, she would be required to “modify” her African accent. She ignored the stereotype box and concentrated on getting the required core skills. Her institution gave her an award for excellence last Christmas – her accent is still the same.
I can understand if your stance is one of a counter view to my opinion that “any one can become a professional”. However, look around you and you’ll find that those who truly make the difference are those who break free from the toga of stereotypes, those who are propelled by their passion and who at first seem to be “square pegs in round holes”. None the less, it would also help if in our minds eyes, we do not type cast people, giving wider breadth and depth to our views because, any one, and just any one, can aspire to be a professional in any field. The main limitation we face are not the tick boxes or the skeptical stereotypical 3D glasses of society and others, but ourselves.
Finally, if our professed professionalism ends with us maintaining a status symbol or elite title without impacting positively on mankind or our fellow man then of what use is it?
About our writer – Loretta Okor is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Specialist Registrar with the NHS, Educationist, Youth & Women Empowerment Advocate, Inspirational Speaker and ardent blogger. She is also Co-Chair and Founder of the Ashanti Graham Health & Education Initiative Foundation. As a blogger, Loretta is keen to motivate readers through sharing inspirational life experiences of others at www.lorettareveals.org
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