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Client Story

International Women’s Day 2024

Nurse Inspires Inclusion in Healthcare for International Women’s Day

Every day, in every classroom and meeting room of the International Institute of Minnesota, our clients inspire us. This International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting one client’s story who exemplifies this year’s theme of “Inspire Inclusion.” 

Ever since Esi Izim was a little girl in the small west African country of Togo, she dreamed of a career in medicine so she could take care of her mother, who suffered from chronic pain and illness. 

“I used to feel helpless, like I was too little to help her,” Esi said. “I always tell myself, ‘I will one day be a doctor so I can take care of her.’”

Fast forward to the adult Esi, and you’ll meet a determined woman now completing a Family Nurse Practitioner / Doctorate of Nursing dual degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato – the highest degree possible in nursing.

Without women, I don’t think the healthcare system would be what it is today. Women are nurturing and care about taking care of the whole person, rather than just taking care of disease.

From Dreaming to Doing

She arrived in Minnesota in 2013, speaking only French, and bringing with her dreams of education, medicine and the ability to support her family back home. After just nine months in English class, Esi enrolled in college. She’s been in school ever since, beginning as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). 

“I fell in love with nursing, just that nurturing aspect of it,” Esi said.

She continued earning one nursing degree after another, while also working and sending money home to family.

“If you’re a hard worker you’ll make it in America,” Esi said. “It’s the land of many, many opportunities. You just have to be determined to make it and know which door to knock on.”

Woman standing on stairsOne of those doors was the International Institute of Minnesota, which she learned about from a nursing professor. Esi enrolled in the Institute’s Medical Career Advancement program, which provides tuition assistance, scholarship connections, tutoring and one-to-one guidance. 

“The Institute has been in my corner ever since,” Esi said. “It has been instrumental in my success.”

Sharing Her Experience to Educate Others

While Esi continues helping her mother, who now lives with her and requires daily care, Esi’s mission and goals have expanded. 

“My goal is to show more representation of people in minority groups in the healthcare system and give an example of the reality minorities face in the healthcare system. “I want to try and shape the nursing world the way I want to see it and be a part of the positive change I want to see in the healthcare industry,” Esi said.

One way she does that is by teaching. In addition to her full-time studies, Esi works as a part-time adjunct professor at Mankato, teaching third-year nursing students at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. 

“Minority groups are not very well represented when it comes to executive roles, management roles, among people that make decisions in healthcare systems,” Esi said. “There are a lot of minority group nurses, but how many managers, how many directors are minority? Not many.”

So she takes every opportunity she can to educate healthcare students about the importance of representation, shining a light on the competence of minorities working in health care. 

“This will help (students) have a better respect for their colleagues in a minority group when they see them in the future, and as they take care of those minority groups,” Esi said. 

My goal is to show more representation of people in minority groups in the healthcare system and give an example of the reality minorities face in the healthcare system.

Drawing Inspiration From Women

As Esi’s mother continues needing healthcare support, she also lives in Esi’s heart as her main motivation to work hard.

“I grew up with a single mother, from 6 years old until adulthood. She was determined to raise three children by herself. And she did it remarkably. My mother is a go-getter,” Esi said.

That doesn’t mean Esi’s educational and career journeys have been easy. The reality of studying full-time, working and taking care of her mother – all while supporting herself and her family in Togo – requires non-stop dedication.

Woman sitting at a table

 

“Sometimes I need to cry and get back to myself again. But I get up and continue,” Esi said. “Thinking about all the sacrifices my mother made for me to be here, I don’t have an excuse to give up.”

Another inspiration? Esi’s nursing tutor, Dorothea Hansmeyer, a long-time Institute volunteer and nursing professor at St. Catherine University. “I call her my mentor. She always tells me, `You can do it,’” Esi said with a smile. “I’m always happy when I see successful women (like Dorothea). I think, ‘Wow. If this person can do it, I can do it, too.’”

What Women Bring to Healthcare

“Without women, I don’t think the healthcare system would be what it is today. Women are nurturing and care about taking care of the whole person, rather than just taking care of disease,” Esi said.  

“Women are mothers, sisters, friends, and for me, personally, even the most powerful man in the world has a very supportive woman behind them. We are more than just flesh. We are soul, a sparkle of God. With kindness and love we can achieve a wonderful life for all of us.”


Reported and written by Alisa Blackwood, Communications Manager at the International Institute of Minnesota. Alisa’s work at the Institute comes after years of writing for publications and organizations such as The Associated Press, O, The Oprah Magazine, TravelandLeisure.com, Health and more. She hopes her writing about Institute clients, students and staff bring to life the stories behind the news headlines.

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