Born in Georgia, E’Jaaz Abdulkabir moved to the Virgin Islands at the age of 9. “Living in St. Croix was like living in a small town – surrounded by water,” said Abdulkabir. Her father was a physician. In fact, he was the attending physician during her birth and delivered her at home. For Abdulkabir, nursing was familiar and comfortable; and home births normal. After earning her Associate’s degree in nursing from the University of Virgin Islands, she worked in the post-partum unit at the local hospital. “I had a very different introduction to nursing than a lot of my colleagues. For the first five years of my career, the nurses I worked with were predominantly Black. It wasn’t ‘til I moved back to Georgia that I realized how different that was.”
Abdulkabir is an anomaly. With only 6% of U.S. nurses identifying as Black, the profession is a very white place. “The hospital I worked at in Georgia had the highest birth rate in the country. The community’s ethnicity was not reflected. Nurses were white and the technicians, and secretaries Black.” There was a distinct separation between races and jobs. “I felt the community we were serving didn’t trust healthcare at all. That was a strange feeling. I had never experienced that before.”
In 2016, Abdulkabir did a stint as a traveling nurse, and her first assignment brought her to Denver Health where she discovered Colorado. “I got a taste of serving the underserved. It was my favorite job ever.” Her next assignment took her to Walnut Creek, California, a very affluent area of the country, where she took care of women who were first-time pregnant mothers. She then got married, and the couple moved to Louisiana where she went back to school to get her Bachelor’s degree. “I caught the school bug and got my master’s in nursing education,” she said.
|CU College of Nursing Announces a New Scholarship to Encourage Diversity of Students Pursuing Midwifery Degrees|
|Press release: CU Nursing Midwifery Diversity Scholarship|
Being Part of the Solution
While working in women’s health, Labor & Delivery, and getting exposure to midwifery, she learned the shocking truth of maternal mortality rates in the U.S., and it appalled her. “Black women are nearly four times more likely to die than white women. I asked myself, ‘What could I do?’” According to the Maternal Health Task Force, despite spending more than any other country on hospital-based maternity care, the U.S. fares worse in preventing pregnancy-related deaths than most other developed nations. Abdulkabir knew that midwifery showed great outcomes for many low-risk patients, regardless of ethnicity. She decided to become a midwife to change the face of the profession – literally. “I think I can be part of the solution,” said Abdulkabir, who remembered Colorado fondly, and chose CU’s post-graduate nurse-midwifery certificate program.
The transition was not as smooth as she would have liked. Colorado -- located in the middle of the country -- is not very diverse. Initially feeling like an outsider, Abdulkabir second-guessed her decision to attend CU. “Because no one looked like me, I questioned what I was doing here.” After her initial trepidation, she discovered that “the people who come here are more liberal-leaning. I feel way more accepted here and have found a home.”