Tanaka’s journey from Zimbabwe

I am a true global citizen, a student and an educator and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Once you read through this, you may think I’ve lived several lives in this short life, but I promise you that isn’t the case. I was born in Harare Zimbabwe in the early 80’s. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country that is not only home to Victoria Falls but holds an entry point to the great Kruger National Park.

My parents met in Harare after my dad returned from England where he had trained to be pharmacist. After the birth of my sister, my parents made the decision to take advantage of a life the West could offer, so our little family moved. First to England, then the United States and ultimately northern Ontario, Canada.

Looking back, my upbringing was nothing short of magical in the sense that I had been exposed to a great amount of travel at a young age, had filled multiple passports and experienced different cultures and traditions and ways of life. In Canada, my little brother came along, and our family was complete. My African parents ensured we had the “Canadian” experience and exposed us kids to camping, trailer parks (one of our many weekend campers happened to be a silver bullet in appearance with 1970’s interior décor), crafts, bingo halls, gymnastics, sports, baseball (Go Jays!) and a whole lot more.

As we had become Canadian citizens, my parents decided all of us kids would become officially French Immersion educated…I was in 7th Grade by the way when I entered French Immersion…when asked what would happen if I failed as I was “old”, my mother boldly defied naysayers and said…”let her fail, it will teach her too”…I just looked at her in awe as she said this, she had enough confidence for the two of us. What she meant by saying I could fail was simply that being afraid to move forward with anything stalls progression and which can itself be considered a failure, so she taught me if I was going to fail anyways, let me fail trying…I passed all my classes by the way and received my certificate in immersion at the end of high school. This is also a woman who after would listen to French tapes, so she could help us if needed as we transitioned.

My parents were obsessed with education and taking advantage of what these Western countries could give us. I loved school, absolutely loved learning. I ultimately went to Queen’s University at Kingston Ontario to study Life Sciences and then applied to medical school. One of the first things my parents asked me was where in the WORLD I would apply to medical school. What an interesting thing to be asked…where in the WORLD! This gave me license to apply to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the United States. I ultimately settled on Wake Forest University in North Carolina, USA. What an adventure North Carolina was, experiencing the south for the first time! I studied hard and ultimately chose to be dedicated to woman’s health and education and decided to become an obstetrician and gynecologist. I extended my training further became a female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeon (aka urogynecologist).

I now work at the prestigious Weill Cornell Medical Center and am getting my Master of Science from the Cornell graduate school while working full time as well. I sometimes have to pinch myself to realize the awe of what I have achieved…starting as a girl born so far away. Incidentally, my entire immediate family now live in Australia as their next adventure ad they love it! My father is working hard and my mother is enrolled in a PhD program! I am a global citizen, am in love with education and teaching others. If you dream big enough, dig your heels in and focus…you can achieve the world, I am an example of this and I am so very appreciative.

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