Growing up, Chidiogo Anyigbo, M.D., M.P.H., always knew that she wanted to be a doctor. As the oldest of five siblings, she discovered her passion for caring for children at an early age. While attending medical school at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, she completed a rotation in obstetrics and gynecology that cemented her desire to be a pediatrician.
“I remember during the deliveries, when the babies came out, I would immediately think, 'how is the cry, oh the cry is not that strong,’ or ‘they may need to suction.’ My attention was clearly with the baby, not the mother,” she recalls. Her passion for caring for children has continued to grow over the course of her career. “I am humbled by, enamored by, and filled with hope by what childhood is. So much of who we are as adults can be traced back to childhood, and I find that to be so fascinating,” she explains.
When Dr. Anyigbo was searching for a residency program in 2015, she knew that she wanted to be in the nation’s capital. Having received a dual degree in medicine and public health, Dr. Anyigbo was searching for a program that would allow her to focus on both clinical care and advocacy. Children’s National Hospital was her first choice, specifically for the LAUNCH track made available to our residents in partnership with the Child Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI)
. “I came here specifically for that track,” says Dr. Anyigbo. “It created structured opportunities that allowed me to gain specialized training in advocacy.”
Over the course of her three-year residency, Dr. Anyigbo participated in various advocacy-related projects, including a project with the D.C. Public School System and a federal affairs internship with the American Academy of Pediatrics. “There is great value in a clinician who can also speak the language of public health and who can use that as a vehicle for advocacy,” says Dr. Anyigbo. “These experiences provided me with a vehicle to learn and share what I’ve learned with others.”
Now in her final year as a general pediatrics fellow at Children’s National THEARC
, Dr. Anyigbo has continued to apply the advocacy tools, that she learned during her residency, to her work. Most recently, she partnered with CHAI to serve as a champion for the 2020 Census. “Supporting families requires resources, and some of those resources are paid for by the federal government. In the communities that I care for, there might not be trust in the federal government based on historical traumas that are rooted in racism, classism and various other structural factors,” Dr. Anyigbo explains. “My clinic is in a community with low Census response. During my outreach efforts, I repeated the tag line – The Census is about money, power, and allocation of resources because communities with low Census response rates result in less resources for children and families.”
Dr. Anyigbo’s work as a Census champion included wearing buttons that promoted the 2020 Census and using those buttons as an avenue to explain the Census to her patients and families. It also involved coordinating Census champions at other Children’s National locations and coaching residents in how to talk about the Census with families. Like many things in the past year, advocacy efforts around the 2020 Census were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic really affected our outreach. We had to quickly pivot our strategies to adapt to the new virtual and socially-distanced environment,” says Dr. Anyigbo.
In addition to affecting advocacy work, the COVID-19 pandemic has also changed the everyday operations of Children’s National. “I think that the definition of an ‘essential worker’ has really been turned on its head. Everyone who helps to care for our patients and families are essential in the work of childhood,” says Dr. Anyigbo. “Everyone who comes to work every day, from the staff responsible for cleaning, to the facilities staff handling building maintenance, the people delivering food to patients and the people drawing labs, are essential workers. We’re all going through a lot, and we’re all doing it together.”
Thank you, Dr. Anyigbo, for all that you do to advocate for our patients, families and community!