October is Black History Month and we are sharing the story of Registrar Omolara Plang. Known as Lara, she joined the Trust during the first wave of the covid pandemic and now specialises in cardiology.
She is originally from Nigeria and was inspired to become a doctor as a child.
Against all odds her determination and curiosity is what led her to studying medicine.
She said: “I have wanted to be a doctor since I was five. I was quite ill and needed to go into hospital but I was really scared of injections. The doctor who saw me was the most lovely women, she said to me it was going to be alright. She took me into another room for some treatment and I did have injections but I honestly don’t remember them, she put me at so much ease. I remember thinking; I want to be like you, I want to help people like you have helped me.
“I said I wanted to be a doctor ever since then but when it came to me picking my options and I said I wanted to be a doctor my mum didn’t know what to do, we couldn’t afford for me to do medicine. I refused to eat or come out of my room or speak to anyone because all I wanted to do was be a doctor. Eventually I managed to get a scholarship and started to eat and speak to people again. I love food so much now I have no idea how I did that!”
Omolara is from a family of five. She was the only girl and always following her brothers on their adventures.
She said: “At some point I stopped needing them and would go off on my own solo adventures. I was always in the chemistry lab, experimenting between classes; there were a few explosions – nothing too bad or dangerous but loud enough to get the teachers there to see what was going on, and to give me a detention!"
Omolara has worked at NCIC for three years now. But she never intended being in Cumbria or the UK for very long originally.
She explained: “I had been practicing medicine with obstetrics and gynaecology in Nigeria and I got a scholarship to do a masters post graduate degree in Sheffield and then research in Edinburgh. I was going to stay for three months after that and then go back to Nigeria. Then covid happened. I wanted to do my bit, I got a job in Cumbria by applying through an agency originally.
“I joined during the first wave of covid – a very busy and unusual period for the NHS. When I first started, I had to learn the NHS system which was new to me. I say sometimes that having clinical skills and the certifications is one thing but learning/knowing the NHS is another essential as well.
“I was scared, petrified even but I can honestly say that west Cumbria has been very welcoming and lovely. I do not have any regrets.
“I enjoy the work environment and interacting with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. You know that we have developed an international football team, well when the men are playing football the women have a dance session. It’s really great. My work can be challenging but I still take every learning opportunity – there’s no explosions now though!”
Lara says it’s important for us to celebrate Black History Month:
“It’s an acknowledgement of my identity and it is important to acknowledge our diversity. It means I am seen.”
Everyone can get involved in Black History Month and to help she has shared with us a special Nigerian recipe. She explained:
“The recipe for Jollof rice is special because it is something that every family in Nigeria will cook. It’s cooked for special occasions or for guests. It is traditional – a bit like a Sunday roast is here. I hope that others enjoy it.”
At North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust we are proud of our International employees every day.
Nigerian Recipe - Jollof rice:
There are many different ways to cook Jollof Rice. Main ingredients are – rice (long grain), tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, red bell pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, and spices. If it doesn’t have the above mentioned ingredients, then it’s not true Jollof! This is the way my mum taught me.
For the Stew Base:
- 1 pound (475g) plum tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes) cored and roughly chopped
- 2 medium (7oz; 200g) red bell peppers stemmed, seeded, roughly chopped
- 1 medium (8oz; 225g) red onion, roughly chopped
- 1/4 of a Scotch bonnet
- Chicken/beef stock
For the Jollof Rice:
- 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable, oil
- 1 medium (8-ounce; 225g) red onion, thinly sliced, divided
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons (30g) tomato paste
- 2 cups (400g) converted long-grain rice or Golden Sella basmati, rinsed
- In a blender jar, combine tomatoes, red pepper, onion, Scotch bonnet. Blend until a smooth puree forms, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the stew base to a saucier or saucepan, cover partially with a lid to contain splatter, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally, until reduced by half
- For the Jollof Rice: In a pot, heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half the sliced onion along with the bay leaves, curry powder, dried thyme, a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and the onions soften slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste. Cook, stirring continuously, until the tomato paste darkens, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved stew base, cover partially with the lid to prevent splattering, and cook at a gentle simmer over medium-low heat until reduced by half, say for about 15 minutes.
- Stir in stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt and pepper; if the curry flavour is lacking, you can add more to taste (the curry powder should come through pleasantly but not be overpowering, though this is a question of personal taste).
- Stir in rice until evenly coated in sauce. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible and cook for 20 minutes, then uncover the pot and gently stir rice to redistribute. Cover again and continue to cook until rice is just cooked through but still retains a firm bite and the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 15 minutes longer. If rice is undercooked and/or still wet, cover and cook 5 minutes longer.