Siblings appearing in an image that has gone viral are (from left to right) Okway Okpaleke, M.D., Chinelo Okpaleke, P.A., Nkiru Osefo, M.D., Ifeoma Okpaleke, N.P., Queenate Okpaleke, N.P. and Chinyere Okpaleke. Another sibling, Lillian Okpaleke, M.D., is not pictured.
So what’s so special about this picture? If you haven’t noticed, all these siblings are in the medical field.
The post, which it seems like originated on LinkedIn, has amassed over 170,000 and over 6,000 comments. Then on Instagram and Facebook, the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands. The comments have shown that the photo is more than inspirational, with commentators sharing how the picture prompts them to share the dream of being a Black doctor with their families.
According to Good Morning America, Andrew Okpaleke, M.D. is their father. He is a retired physician of internal medicine who practiced for 30 years, and their mother, Celina Okpaleke, P.A., has been practicing for over 20.
So yes, that’s right: not only are ALL of the children in the medical field, but their parents are doctors as well.
“We are Nigerian, so we have that cultural background of my parents being immigrants and basically sacrificing coming here for a better life,” Chinyere Okpaleke, whose patients call her Dr. Chi, told “Good Morning America.” “Their idea of wanting us to succeed came across in how they raised us.”
Dr. Chi said she and her siblings all share the desire to help people, and that many have commented about the entire family working in the same field.
The feat of having all these doctors in one family is important because of the huge need for Black physicians.
The percentage of physicians in the United States who are Black has increased only 4% in the past 120 years, and the number of Black male doctors has not changed at all since 1940, according to a new study.
In 1900, 1.3% of physicians were Black. In 1940, 2.8% of physicians were Black, and by 2018 — when almost 13% of the population was Black — 5.4% of doctors were Black, reports Dan Ly, MD, PhD, MPP, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a study published online April 19 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The proportion of male Black physicians was 2.7% in 1940 and is only 2.6% in 2018.
Ly also found a significant wage gap. The median income earned by White doctors was $50,000 more than the median income of Black physicians in 2018.
The loss of Black physicians has secondary consequences on community members themselves. Some Black physicians work at community health centers, which provide primary care for many racial and ethnic minorities. COVID-19 related constraints have led to community health center closures, resulting in less access to care for Black patients. At least 18 percent of Black high school sophomores aspire to be physicians. In addition to the loss of important family and community support and encouragement because of COVID-19, these aspiring physicians may lose Black role models, resulting in less guidance, mentorship and opportunities critical to become a physician. Although white physicians can serve as mentors to Black medical aspirants, they are less likely to practice in the communities where Black youth live.
Another huge barrier has plagued the rise of Black physicians: finances. Black college students are more likely to have financial pressures that force them to drop out. According to Scientific American, because of recent inequities in remote schooling that have come to light, Black students from low-income families have delayed the progress of 10 months by some estimates. There are concerns that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which produce a large number of Black physicians, will struggle