HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Over the years, Dr. Kate Aseme has seen a lot of changes in the Pine Belt and It's because of her that some of those changes took place.
Growing up as one of 15 kids in a rural community in Nigeria, with no hospitals, she developed a passion for medicine at the age of 10. She attended a Red Cross school where she learned how to deliver babies at home, which proved beneficial when one of her sisters was born.
"I helped deliver her, I cut the cord," said Aseme.
After doing extremely well at a two-year technical school in Nigeria, her passion led her to attend medical school in a place she had only heard of--- America. It was in 1964, a time Aseme remembers as young girl that she was all alone. But, that didn't stop her.
"As a teenager you're adaptable," she said. "You adapt very quickly."
She learned throughout medical school and while she was doing her residency along the east coast that the medical field wasn't accepting of women just yet. But, she fought on. Later in life, Aseme got married. And when it was time to start a career in private practice, she found herself heading south, initially to Arkansas. However, those plans changed and she moved to Hattiesburg making her the first female general surgeon in Mississippi. Her arrival to Mississippi was during a time when many medical waiting rooms were still segregated thus encouraging her to work harder.
"There was so much medical need in the black community when I came here," she said. "There weren't enough doctors that saw them."
Aseme stayed in private practice for 23 years before being recruited by Forrest General Hospital in 2000 to start the trauma department--- a field dominated by years of unchanging status quo.
"So, here I was, a black woman trying to give orders to an all-male, white group, which is very tough," said Aseme.
Her unwavering determination helped usher in a new era in medical care for the Pine Belt region by shaping Forrest General's response to trauma into what it is today.
"They resented it, we fought a lot," she said. "I was in their face all the time, because that's just what you have to do to create the culture."
Now retired, Dr. Aseme knows the importance of young girls especially in the black community who look up to her for what she's accomplished, because she wouldn't back down and wanted to make a change.
"The barriers are all broken down now," Aseme said. "They can do whatever they want to do, any field of medicine they want to, if they're willing to put in the time and effort, it's wide open for them."