Often the most vulnerable population to disease and injury are the youngest tribal members, whose care is in the hands of the pediatric staff of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services. Now entering her second year as part of that staff is Dr. Fausat Adediji, who is the pediatrician at the CPN West Health Clinic.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. Adediji spent part of her formative years living in New York. Her father, an aircraft maintenance engineer for Nigerian Airways, was stationed in the U.S. for part of his career. Eventually her family returned to their home country, and Dr. Adediji went on to pursue her lifelong goal of becoming a doctor.
“You know how some kids want to be professional athletes or super heroes? Well for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. I always wanted to help people, to understand why diseases and conditions affected certain people the way they did. So it was just something I always wanted to do,” she said.
Dr. Adediji attended the University of Ibadan. Founded in 1948, it is Nigeria’s oldest university and one of its most prestigious institutions. In 2006, she and her husband moved to Houston, Texas where he worked as a petroleum engineer. During this time, Dr. Adediji cared for the couple’s children, though as they grew she decided to continue her medical studies.
Upon being accepted to the residency program at the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus, she and her family relocated once again. Though she was a graduate of medical school in Nigeria, the toughest hurdle came in navigating the bureaucratic barriers faced by medical professionals who are educated abroad.
“It is challenging in terms of convincing someone to take a chance on you, to prove you are properly trained and that you can do the job,” she explained. “But at the end of the day, you have to do your residency.”
Residencies are often the most intense portion of medical professionals training. Dr. Adediji was able to prove herself during her training and upon completing her third year at OU Tulsa, and was awarded the “Daniel C. Plunket Award for Compassion and Communication in Patient Care”.
Following this, she began to search for a position that would allow her to spend more time with her young family. She heard back from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Health Services regarding an opening for a pediatrician, and since September 2012, has served at both of the tribe’s health clinics.
In addition to more stable hours for her and her family, Dr. Adediji explained one of the positive aspects in working for a tribal-funded health provider.
“Over here, since everyone is covered, my patient’s medications do not have to compete with some other pressing need for their personal resources. So I can be rest assured that they are going to get their medications. Our pharmacy can dispense prescriptions to our patients that in a private clinic they may not have been able to afford. That makes my job much simpler.”
Entering her second year serving the youngest tribal members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Adediji described her role as a primary care provider.
“I had personal experiences with my own family where prevention at an early age could have led to a different outcome for my brother. In that sense, I feel like I have been there along with my patients, and that feeling is stronger now that I have children of my own. This is why I feel it is my responsibility to push prevention with our patients, so as not to let them fall into a situation where things are worse off.”
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services’ goal is to provide high quality, evidence-based, culturally-suitable medical and dental care, public health services, and behavioral health and substance abuse counseling to members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and members of other federally-recognized American Indian tribes and nations and Alaskan Natives. The clinicians and support personnel comprising the CPNHS staff share the goal of eliminating the health status disparities which exist between American Indians and the general population of the United States, and focus on eliminating long-standing access barriers to health and human services experienced by the majority of Native Americans residing in central Oklahoma.
If you would like to learn more, please call 405-878-4693 or visit www.potawatomi.org/services/health.