OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Shanda Ross, Dr. Nada Fadul and Dr. Jasmine Marcelin of Nebraska Medicine have plenty in common including the fact that they all wanted to go into the healthcare field since they were little girls. Pursuing their dreams required perseverance and sacrifice.
“What brought me into medicine was my mother,” said Ross. “As a child, I’ve always seen her ill and we'd be back and forth from the hospital. I learned at an early age how to do her blood sugar checks and then learned when I would need to call 911 in case things got really bad.”
Dr. Fadul is an infectious disease expert who wanted to make a difference in her home country's HIV epidemic.
“In Sudan, most people die because of infections and pandemic diseases,” she said. “By the time I came here and started doing my training, HIV was actually starting to pick up in East Africa. That really strengthened my passion for infectious diseases and HIV.”
Dr. Marcelin, originally from Dominica, wanted to be like her childhood doctor.
Their long-held desires to become healthcare professionals never prepared them for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As healthcare professionals, we're prepared for treating our patients...for emergency situations,” said Marcelin. “I don't know that there is anything in nursing school, medical school, any sort of healthcare professional school that spells out how to deal with a pandemic.”
“You're building the plane as you're flying it and that's kind of how it's felt,” said Fadul. “Things change rapidly and then you have to adapt. I think what we discovered in ourselves in the past year is that we are very resilient...much more than we ever imagined.”
They said, as difficult as the pandemic has been, what's been extra hard on them has been witnessing people who look like them dying at rates proportionally higher than other populations.
“COVID just brought up these inequalities to the surface,” said Fadul. “They've been happening way before COVID and I guess anything we take out of this, is that we shouldn't wait for a pandemic or a disaster to happen to realize that our people don't have access.”
There are people who don't have access to the internet so they can't log on to sign up for the notification for when they can get the vaccine,” said Marcelin. “There are people who don't have any transportation and when you try and log on, to access the vaccine, there isn't a vaccine center in 20 miles. All of these things contribute to reasons why we're seeing low vaccine intake.”
That's why these three heroes have done informative Facebook lives, participated in community forums and served as a COVID-19 and vaccine resource — specifically for Black communities.
“Being a Black role model in the community is another reason I take pride in being a nurse,” said Ross. “My family and I are very popular in North Omaha so a lot of people celebrated with me when I got my nursing degree and when I got my master's degree. People really look to you in the community to see what do you really think about it, ‘Do you think I should take the vaccine, is COVID is real?’”
“There's a sense of responsibility...not to save the world, but to make sure that our world is spoken for,” said Marcelin.
They strive to also be visible to the youth so they too can see themselves becoming doctors in the future.
“It makes me want to work even harder to make sure that my face is out there so that the kids who are maybe dreaming and haven’t had their dreams dashed away yet, can see me and others like me and think, ‘Look at them, I can be like them,’ and never have to worry about that not being a possibility,” said Marcelin.
A possibility all three are now living.
“I'm very proud that I have a family,” said Ross. “I grew up in Hilltop Projects here in Omaha, Nebraska. “I sat on that stoop many a times, just wondering, ‘What is my life going to be like?’ I look at my surroundings and I said, ‘I don't want it to be like this.’ My mother and my grandparents always taught me, it doesn't have to be.”
“This did not come easy,” said Fadul. “This came at a cost to a lot of people in their lives, in their opportunities, in their history...so I’m grateful for all of that.”