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Dr. Anisa Ibrahim among Great Immigrants, Great Americans

UW Medicine
Wednesday June 30, 2021

Ibrahim escaped the civil war in Somalia as a child, and went on to head the pediatrics clinic at Harborview Medical Center

Dr. Anisa Ibrahim examines a baby at the Harborview Medical Center Pediatrics Clinic. Photo:Susan Gregg

Somali-American pediatrician Dr. Anisa Ibrhahim, who now directs the Harborview Medical Center Clinic where she and her siblings received care as children, has been honored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. She is among the 2021 Great Immigrants, Great Americans named today.

On July 4, photos of this year’s honorees will appear in a full-page public service announcement in the New York Times.  Their images and bios also will be featured on kiosks throughout the New York City’s Independence Day fireworks display viewing areas.

This year’s group of 34 honorees represent more than 30 countries of origin. Their selection emphasizes service to society in a wide variety of fields, from medical providers and researchers, to social justice advocates, to leaders in industry, literature and journalism, entertainment and other areas.

While celebrating the nation’s freedom from outside rulers, The Fourth of July is also traditionally a day for welcoming new naturalized citizens and honoring the many contributions of immigrants to America.

Ibrahim came to the United States in 1993 when she was six-years-old.  Her family had fled the civil war in Somalia, and spent time in a refugee camp in Kenya.  There, as a young girl, Ibrahim had witnessed poverty, malnutrition and disease, including seeing her sister contract measles during an outbreak.  After her family settled in Seattle, Ibrahim and her siblings received their pediatric care at Harborview Medical Center.

The staff at the clinic recognized her firm determination and encouraged her dream of becoming a physician.  Among them was Dr. Elinor A. Graham, now an associate professor emeritus of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine. Like Graham, Ibrahim wanted to provide medical care and build community support for children from immigrant, refugee, and minority populations, and from low-income families.

Somali-American Dr. Anisa Ibrahim is a UW School of Medicine alumna and a current faculty member.

Ibrahim recently told NBC Nightly News that she sees her own background as helping her relationships with her young patients and their families, particularly in providing insights into the lives of those whose experiences mirror her own.  She believes it is important to be deeply respectful and welcoming to everyone.

“Millions of refugees were not given the opportunities I was given,” Ibrahim said. “If they were, they could do wonderful things.”

Ibrahim graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine, and did her residency training in pediatrics here as well. In 2016 she joined Harborview Medical Center as a general pediatrician, and in 2019 was appointed director of its pediatrics primary-care clinic.  She also holds an appointment at Seattle Children’s, and is a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine.

The Carnegie Foundation of New York established the Great Immigrants, Great Americans tribute to honor the legacy of founder Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant to the United States, by annually  recognizing an extraordinary group of naturalized citizens who have made notable contributions to the progress of American society. The program has now honored more than 600 outstanding immigrants.

According to the Foundation’s announcement today, immigrants make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population. Ten years ago, the Foundation joined with other philanthropies to establish the New Americans campaign to provide free legal assistance to permanent residents during the lengthy process of seeking U.S. citizenship.


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