Talk about a dream team!

By Meghan Overdeep
Updated June 12, 2020
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Adrienne Battistella Photography

Meet the inspiring mother-daughter duo taking the world of medicine by storm.

Dr. Cynthia Kudji Sylvester, 49, and her daughter Dr. Jasmine Kudji, 26, became one of first mother-daughter pairs to attend medical school at the same time and match at the same institution after they both committed to start their medical careers at the LSU Health system in March.

Cynthia will be doing her residency in family medicine at LSU Health Lafayette while Jasmine will starting general surgery residency at LSU Health New Orleans, both part of the National Resident Matching Program.

For Cynthia, it’s a 27-year dream in the making. She was a senior at Tulane University when she became pregnant with Jasmine, seemingly squashing her plan to attend medical school. Instead, as a single parent, Cynthia began her healthcare career as a nursing assistant. She put herself through nursing school to become a hospital RN, and eventually, a nurse practitioner serving rural communities throughout Louisiana and Alabama.

“My mother is the most inspiring person in my life, and she is one of the only reasons I was able to make it to where I am today,” Jasmine said in a news release. “I remember countless times my mother would work back-to-back 12 hour shifts so that she could afford to send me to the best high school in New Orleans. She pushed me to become the best student that I could be.”

When Jasmine was an undergraduate at LSU, Cynthia decided to finally pursue her dream of being a physician. In 2013, at the age of 43, she enrolled at University of Medicine and Health Sciences on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

“This was by far the hardest thing she had ever done,” Jasmine recalled. “There were countless nights where she’d call me crying. At times she struggled to find acceptance among her classmates because she was more than 20 years older.”

With her mom in medical school in the Caribbean, Jasmine enrolled at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Though separated by distance, the women leaned heavily on each other throughout their medical school experiences, making daily Skype calls for visiting and studying.

“You learn to really trust one another, and the lines of motherhood really get blurred,” Cynthia told Today. “She becomes my best friend, you know, she becomes my confidante, during the whole process.”

Both mother and daughter will start their residencies on July 1. Cynthia will be based in Lafayette, Louisiana for three years while Jasmine’s surgical rotation will last five years and require travel between Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and New Orleans.

Cynthia and Jasmine have embraced their positions as role models for the Black community and women in general.

“It's honestly not very common. Like 2% of physicians are African American women. Even at the hospital that I'm going to start working at, there's only one African American female surgeon out of probably about 50,” Jasmine told Today. “Female surgeons in general are just uncommon. It's not often that I see people that look like me in my field so that's why it's so important to us to make sure that we do show our faces and spread our story.”

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