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African Women and the
British Health Service


Dr Rahma Elmahdi

Rahma is a doctor of Sudanese heritage. She arrived in the UK in 1989 as a child with her family due to a military coup in Sudan. Having been raised in a political household, Rahma dreamed of pursuing a political career. However,  she became interested in medicine after beginning to read science books. She began her medical training in 2007, and is one of the youngest people YHP interviewed for this project. In her interview she discusses her experiences in academia, racial and gender discrimination in healthcare for patients and workers, and her African and Arab identity.


"Back when we first came in the early '90s, Sudan had just been subject to the military coup from Omar al-Bashir, who has now thankfully been deposed after many years. My father had been imprisoned by al-Bashir because of his connections to the then–ruling party who had the coup happen against them, so that was all back in Sudan. It was a time of huge political instability, which is why my family left the country. We arrived in the UK pretty unprepared for the change, but the circumstances were pretty desperate." 


"So actually, when I was younger, I really wanted to go into politics. I thought that was definitely what I wanted to do. My family are quite political. There were always conversations at home about politics, whether it be Sudanese politics or British politics, it was always [a] conversation. My mother being like, classic, as most African mothers are, really wanted to see her daughters in one of the big three or four professions that were acceptable. ‘Become a doctor, or an engineer, or lawyer’. I was dead set on politics until I read a book [titled] Bill Bryson’s ‘Short History of Nearly Everything’. It was a book about science and how the world works. I thought, 'Oh, this is actually quite interesting this science stuff'. I started reading more and more popular science. I suddenly felt like 'Maybe I could do in science degree and then go into politics later'. When I was weighing it all up, I thought 'I do work quite well with people'. And if I get to do science and work with people, then maybe my mother's idea of doing medicine isn't such a bad idea."

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