“I’m glad I’ll get to do something that people need now more than ever with my daughter,” Dr. Cynthia Kudji said.
When new physicians Cynthia Kudji and her daughter Jasmine Kudji checked their emails March 20, Match Day, they didn’t expect to set two records. That morning, the duo had both been placed at Louisiana State University Health to complete their residency training — one of the first times a mother and daughter matched with the same hospital after graduating from medical school at the same time.
“We were so excited,” Jasmine, 26, said. “Our life has never been planned, and you never know what’s going to happen. It was one of the best moments of my life.”
A native of Ghana, Cynthia immigrated to the United States with her family when she was two years old. It was during a family trip back to Ghana where Cynthia, 17 at the time, was inspired to become a doctor. There, she saw how egregious health conditions were when a woman she didn’t know asked her to treat her ill child.
“It jolted me because her only form of health care was a complete stranger,” said Cynthia, 49. “I thought, ‘You know what? What can I possibly do to change that, leave an impact, and make a difference?’”
Her dreams were put on the backburner when she became pregnant with Jasmine as a senior at Tulane University, where she received a B.S. in biology as an undergraduate. Instead, Cynthia attended William Carey University for nursing school and completed her master’s of science in nursing at Loyola University in 2006. She worked as a nurse for nearly a decade before eventually deciding that she still wanted to become a physician.
Witnessing Cynthia constantly putting herself before others led Jasmine to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “Growing up, I saw that being a physician was a position of service, and I really valued that,” Jasmine said. “I could see myself doing that from a young age.” In 2014, Jasmine graduated from Louisiana State University majoring in English while taking pre-med classes.
While Cynthia went to the University of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, her daughter attended Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans.
Being apart was difficult at first for both of them.
“We really are each other’s best friends and we constantly rely on each other,” Jasmine said. “Medical school is not set up to work by yourself.”
Their mother-daughter bond was only strengthened while simultaneously attending different medical schools — whether it was staying up late together studying for a test over Skype, calling each other with questions about a patient’s diagnosis, or crying about the compounding stress of the program.
Now, moving forward, they’re excited to be reunited for their residency programs at Louisiana State University Health -- Cynthia is planning to train in family medicine while Jasmine will pursue general surgery.
The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder for Cynthia and Jasmine of why they wanted to become doctors in the first place. “This is a time when physicians can be leaders, show that we contribute, we make a difference in people’s lives. This is where we get the opportunity to serve,” Cynthia said.
“I’m glad I’ll get to do something that people need now more than ever with my daughter.”