Fatima Ali remembers her childhood fondly, despite all the moving. Born in the southern Somalian city of Mogadishu, Ali spent many years in northern Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya because of the Somali civil war. She also harbored a dream that didn’t seem possible until she and her family moved to the U.S. She dreamed of becoming a doctor.
Ali was 14 years old when her family arrived in America, and she immediately started removing the hurdles to physicianhood. She enrolled in a bilingual school, graduated from high school, majored in chemistry at the University of Washington, worked, then was accepted to the UW School of Medicine.
“The biggest hurdle was the cost of going to medical school. My family wasn’t financially well-off,” says Ali.
When Ali applied for a scholarship, she was surprised to realize it had been created by KING5’s Jean Enersen, one of the first female news anchors in the country. “I couldn’t believe it! I was blown away, to be honest with you,” says Ali.
Enersen created the scholarship to remedy what she sees as a growing inequity in medical care and to honor a man she admires: Ben Danielson, MD ’92, Res. ’95, the director of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. Dr. Danielson and his colleagues at Odessa Brown — part of the Seattle Children’s system — care for kids from different socioeconomic, cultural and geographic backgrounds, regardless of their healthcare status or their family’s ability to pay.
“He’s an outstanding pediatrician with an enormous heart and a real understanding of the patient population that he serves,” says Enersen.
Like Ali, Danielson was once a student at the UW School of Medicine. “I knew an institution like that was going to make me a good doctor,” says Danielson. “I also looked around and asked myself, ‘What kind of an environment do I want to live in? What kind of a community do I want to help build?’”
These are the same questions that Ali asked herself when she was deciding which medical school to attend.
“I knew I wanted to stay in the city and go to a school that serves urban areas, is diverse, and serves a community of diverse people,” says Ali. After she completes her training, she intends to help families similar to those served by Odessa Brown, including the large local Somali-American community.
This is precisely what Jean Enersen hoped her scholarship would do — that it would inspire people like Ali and Danielson to remedy some of the barriers to medical care. To create a ripple effect that, eventually, would touch thousands of patients’ lives.
“Some of my friends are getting discouraged by the inequity they see around them. Many feel like they can’t be part of the solution,” says Enersen. “I say to them, ‘Pick one small thing you can do, and do that with your whole heart.’”
“Supporting Fatima is one small thing that I can do,” Enersen says.