Adena Physicians & Staff, Community News, Services & Specialties

Celebrating International Women’s Day

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Elise Armelle Ngalle, MD
Palliative Care

Dr. Elise Ngalle is from Cameroon, West Africa, where International Women’s Day is celebrated with parades and special themes each year. She grew up being taught the importance of women in everyday life and remembers being asked why we celebrate International Women’s Day when there’s not a similar day for men.

“Every day is a celebration of men, so we are asking for one day of appreciation for women,” was her response. “My hope is one day we don’t need a day for us and that it’s every day we celebrate all people.

A special person and professional

Michele Valentine, director of diversity, equity & inclusion, organizational development and volunteer services, said Dr. Ngalle is the perfect woman to highlight on International Women’s Day.

“If you have not met Dr. Ngalle, you are missing out on a phenomenal woman,” she said. “Her smile lights up a room and her heart shines even brighter. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. Ngalle, as well as experiencing her as a physician when my aunt was unexpectedly dying. She led with a calm voice and we felt her warm heart as she delivered the difficult news to my family. She is somebody my family will never forget.”

You can have it all

Dr. Ngalle, who feels the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou says everything about being a woman, has never believed women should feel there are limits to what they can accomplish.

“When I emigrated to Italy, I started a family my first year of medical school,” Dr. Ngalle said. “As I was pregnant with my first child, I was met by others saying, ‘How do you expect to do all of this? You can’t be a professional, mother, and a wife.’ My response was, ‘Watch me.’”

Now, she can provide advice to others. When a resident last year asked her how she managed both a family life and professional life, her response was what you would expect from her.

“God created us to be all of that,” she said. “Most of society does not support us, but we can support each other. We, as women, should not be asked to choose. We are daughters, mothers, nurturers, professionals, and we keep it all together every day.”

Standing up

Dr. Ngalle understands that women have a responsibility to others.

“When a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women,” she said. “When I face challenges, I know I must stand up for all.  I must do it for me and for the others looking up to me.

“As a woman of color, in the face of challenges and unkindness, it may sometimes be easier to let things go, but I am not allowed to do nothing about it. If I let go, I let down every generation after me.”

Finding support

Dr. Ngalle feels that overall she has the support she needs at Adena.

“Of course, I face some challenges here, but I wake up expecting challenges – I don’t look for them, but I expect them,” she said. “What I look for is someone willing to stop and listen to me and I have found that support within Adena.

“Black women in Chillicothe are surrounded by some people who lack understanding. They don’t understand how I can have red hair today, but not tomorrow. But I give them grace. People are a product of the society in which they grow up, so when faced with misunderstanding, I don’t get frustrated. I always take the time to explain in hopes that the other person is willing to listen and become better.”