At this year’s Women4Africa Award, I had the pleasure of meeting Doctor Lanalee Araba Sam. Of course, I had done my homework before the event. I had seen the red carpet styles from last year and had watched the winners as they graciously accepted their awards. One of the speeches that resonated most with me from the 2015 winners was that of Lanalee’s. This was not just because of the enthusiastic way she spoke, or the way she commandeered the stage or captured the audience’s attention with every step and sway. It was the very being of her. She radiated as she spoke, the twinkle in her eye was not fabricated, nor was it a veneer. You can then imagine my excitement as I took a seat opposite the Doc Star herself a few days after the award show to interview her.
Before we start we may need to establish what a Doc Star is, especially as it will come up a few times in this article. When I asked Doctor Sam to explain the term to me, she simply said:
A Doc Star is a proficient doctor who loves what they do. They are those who educate, who inspire, who cultivate. They are those who (and here she quoted from poet Galway Kinnel) put a hand on its brow/Of the flower (in this case, a metaphor for the patient) and retell it in words and in touch/It is lovely/ Until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.
And here, with just a few words, Lanalee had completely redefined my perception of a doctor. She removed the clinical distance and in its place had brought a new sense of individual personality. Her practice as an obstetrician and gynaecologist lives by this. Doctor Sam does not maintain the notion that one treatment should be used for a multitude, rather she is adamant that “women should be their own advocates “, they should do their research and be aware of all the options open to them in order to utilise them. With such a tailored approach, each patient becomes like family. Even when miles away from her Florida based office, Lanalee is unable to switch off, apologising every so often to as she supports a client reaching out for her advice. This was a most endearing quality. Even when on holiday, Lanalee still maintains an open line of communication with maternal affection.
This OG of Doc Stars went on to tell us the way her upbringing influenced her. The disciplined lifestyle within an African household (one many of us may can identity with) cultivates many qualities. In a career of 40 years, Lanalee only recalls her father taking off one day from his work. “‘Discipline, respect, responsibility’ were words he often said.” One of his mantras was “Seek ye first the academic kingdom“, Doc Star Sam fondly recalls, “‘Along with forget boys, get your education!” (Hands up if you can relate!).
And so, after thinking of the generation before herself, Lanalee turns to those who are to follow and says the same. “Avoid distractions while you study“, she says. “There are many things, things that sparkle and that seem exciting but keep focused on your studies. Life is long“, she continues. “A few years in education will fly by. So enjoy the time you have and pay attention to those around you.” Take up opportunities to network because within the next decade they may very well be a valuable contact. “I would tell my younger self to trust myself more and to listen to my own voice.” From this she developed the mantra “Do no harm.” This follows her in all things.
Lanalee reminds us of the need to be true to oneself. She once considered taking the easier road, which for her was a career in law. Often she was in tears whilst struggling to complete her residency. But she could not deny her passion and the sense of joy and service that she feels today far outweighs the fleeting moments of doubt and anxiety.
With such a full on schedule, I had to ask Doctor Sam just how she is able to balance everything. She hesitates before say:
I have had to cut out TV and have not had a fully committed relationship in the past three years. I’m a full time mother of a beautiful 11 year old son, and I’m happily divorced. I have to be very scheduled but each day I take out two hours for myself, be that to mediate, pray, exercise [and so on].
As you are reading this article, Doc Star Sam is preparing for The Freedom Challenge, her second climb with this organisation in an effort to raise awareness of female and child slavery around the world. 80% of thirty million slaves are made up of women and children. “Climbing that mountain, feeling like I have no way out, that I can only keep going, that I have no choice [is the closest] I can get to the experience of a slave.” Their reality is cold and without escape. They have to keep going in order to live. They have no choice. In recognition of this, she and a team of others will be travelling 46 miles with the aim of raising funds to offer relief to those who, without which, would not have one.
Her vision, her work ethic and her drive most definitely makes Lanalee Araba Sam a true Doc Star by Glam Africa standards.
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AUTHOR: Ama Badu (Senior Online Editor)
For reviews, premiers and red carpet events on the Afro-British scene, Ama is your go-to blogger. With an analytical mind and articulate pen, she hopes to write articles that will get Africa (and indeed the world) discussing “real” issues and tangible solutions.