Rahma Elmahdi

Rahma is a Doctor, of Sudanese heritage. She arrived in the UK aged just 5 years old, with her family due to a military coup which had taken place in 1989. As a child, Rahma dreamed of pursuing a political career, having been raised in a political household. However, after reading a science book, she became interested in science and medicine. She began her medical training in 2007, and is one of the youngest people we interviewed for this project. In her interview she discusses her experiences as a student and in academia, racial and gender discrimination in the health services for patients and workers, and her African and Arab identity.

My name is Rahma Elmahdi and I’m Sudanese. I was born in Sudan and I moved to the UK when I was about 5 years old. 

So, 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, who had the coup happen against them, so that was all back in Sudan. So it was a time of huge political instability, which is why my family left the country. And so we arrived in the UK, pretty, I would say unprepared for the change, but the circumstances were pretty desperate, so that’s our story. 

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. So that's, and there was always conversations at home about politics, whether it be Sudanese politics or British politics, it was always conversation. And, and I thought was something I really wanted to do. And obviously, my mother being like, classic, as most African mothers are, really wanted to see her daughters, the five of us in, in one of the big three or four professions that were acceptable, you know, ‘become a doctor or an engineer or lawyer’. And I was dead set on politics until I read a book actually, it was Bill Bryson’s ‘Short History of Nearly Everything’, and it was a book about science and how the world works. And I thought, Oh, this is actually quite interesting this science stuff. I started reading more and more popular science. I suddenly felt like, well, maybe I could do in science degree and then go into politics later. And then when I was weighing it all up, and I thought, well, I quite like people. 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. So I think with most people, it's sort of a culmination of things that that make you choose the career paths you do. And that was my combination of factors. Just my real interest, newfound interest for science and, and my life for working with people really, I just kind of married up quite well.