TORONTO, Ontario (CTV News) — Dr. Alexandra Bastiany had already been practising in the field of interventional cardiology when she realized she was an unknowing role model.
Bastiany, who spoke with CTV News Channel on Monday, the first day of Black History Month, is likely the first Black woman in her field in Canada.
Interventional cardiology is a specialty of cardiology that requires additional years of education and training to diagnose and treat heart conditions with minimally invasive procedures.
“It definitely makes me proud. It’s kind of surreal, because initially I didn’t know that I was the first,” she told CTV News Channel from Thunder Bay, Ont.
Her unknowing milestone could set a precedent for the industry, she said, and lay a path forward for the Black women that will come after her in the field of interventional cardiology.
Bastiany’s parents, who immigrated from Haiti, were “rigorous” about education, but it was her younger brother who really pushed her to pursue medicine.
“It was my little brother who told me I should consider that area of study because I was always dissecting stuff and looking for living things in our yard,” she told freelance writer Ron Fanfair last year.
Her parents taught her that, as a minority, getting a degree could shield her from some of the inequities in society. Despite her education, Bastiany has still faced challenges as a Black woman in medicine, including patients, and even other medical staff, mistaking her for a nurse.
The medical training that doctors endure can be “demanding, physically and emotionally,” she told CTV News Channel.
“On top [of that], being a double minority, being a woman in a men’s world and being a Black student, kind of brought another [layer of] difficulty,” she said.
In a December video for the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, Bastiany expanded on those challenging times. “It was difficult not to have someone who looked like me who was going through the same thing,” she said, adding that she faced “micro-aggressions” in the workplace. “I didn’t necessarily always have someone to share that experience.”
She hopes that will change for the women coming after her in the field. Though she’s been called a “role model” by many in recent months, Bastiany prefers to think of herself as a “mentor” for young Black women.
“All I want to do is help the next generation,” she said.
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