By Nehru Odeh
Nigerian-born, Brampton-raised physician Chika Stacy Oriuwa has been named as one of Canada’s 50 most influential people.
Oriuwa, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who grew up in Brampton, Canada came in 37th on the Macleans Power List, which is a ranking of the 50 influential Canadians.
No mean feat? Certainly. Oriuwa’s achievement is not coming as a surprise. She is a serial achiever. She is not just a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, she graduated in 2020 and was the sole valedictorian of her class. She was also the only Black woman to receive the honour in the school’s 179-year history according to the Power List.
Oriuwa is also an accomplished spoken-word artist who has competed nationally as a slam poet, and a video of her 2017 poem Woman, Black has been viewed more than 12,000 times on YouTube.
Oriuwa has also been an inspiration to black women in Canada. She said she spoke at her old high school in Brampton and had a young Black woman tell her that she wanted to be a doctor “because you did it, and you’re just like us’.”
“To be able to inspire them is so incredible for me,” Oriuwa said.
In August 2021, toymaker Mattel selected Oriuwa for its Barbie Role Models program as one of six women working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to be immortalised as a Barbie doll.
“It was such a full-circle moment for me, as a young girl who played with Barbies and always really wanted to see myself reflected,” Oriuwa said in an interview. “Not only as a child who wanted to be a physician but as a young Black girl.”
The psychiatry resident, whose parents emigrated to Canada in the 1980s, says she chose the field because it has “some of the most marginalised patient demographics in medicine.”
In 2017, the University of Toronto created the Black Student Application Program (BSAP), an optional application process that requires the same standards and includes an interview process conducted by members of the Black community, faculty, and students, and Oriuwa became an ambassador and public face of the program.
In medical school, Oriuwa co-founded the Black Interprofessional Students’ Association (BIPSA) to network students across graduate programs. She also served as a strategic advisor and contributing writer to Healthy Debate, a healthcare journalism platform.
In 2018, she delivered the keynote speech at Women’s College Hospital for International Women’s Day, entitled “Thriving at the Intersections: Being a Black Woman in Medicine.” She was a speaker at the 2018 International Women and Children’s Health Conference at McMaster University. In 2019, she was a workshop speaker at the Canadian Conference on Physician Leadership.
She has said she uses poetry both as an outlet for her struggles with encountering racism and as a form of advocacy against it, and during her second year of medical school, created a spoken word video titled, “Woman, Black.
Some of the awards and honours she has received include: the 2018 African Scholars Emerging Academic Award – University of Toronto, 2020 Valedictorian of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and 2021 Barbie Role Model Program honoree.