District 10 Como Community Council

Know Your Como: Speaking of Race

Know Your Como: Speaking of Race

Como neighbor to co-host upcoming public TV show on race

By Jeanne Steele

Matthew and Tseganesh; Kids in front: Mulu, Liyu, and Zena

“It’s important to call it out,” asserts a promo now airing on TPT – Twin Cities Public Television. “We need everyone’s perspective — to come together.”

The speaker is Rahel Nardos, MD, a friend of Tseganesh Selameab, MD, a Como neighbor, mother, spouse, and doctor. The ‘it’ Dr. Nardos refers to is race. The show, “Speaking of Race,” is a co-production of TPT and the Center for the Art of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Selameab will co-host the show with Jon Hallberg, MD, a mentor who for years has been talking about medical issues on public radio. The show’s first airing will be at 9 p.m., April 29.

The multiple perspectives Nardos calls for are those of patients, doctors, nurses, technicians, caregivers, in essence anyone and everyone who interacts with the American healthcare system. The TPT show will feature University of Minnesota physicians sharing personal stories about race, racism and antiracist efforts in the medical community. Most of the presenters are people of color – many of them born and raised outside the United States—who at once recognize the privileged position they are accorded as ‘doctors’ even as they wrestle with the challenges they have encountered because their native language, culture, skin color or gender may differ from those of their patients, colleagues or teachers.

Ethiopian by birth, Selameab came to this country at age 12 when her father began doctoral studies, the academic, Ph.D. kind, at the University of MN. (He now works as an educational researcher and evaluator, and her mother is a teacher.) She and her family were refugees, fleeing from an “unsafe and dangerous political situation at home” in Ethiopia. She grew up in the U of MN’s International Student Housing complex, not far down the road from where she and her family now live. It was a warm and welcoming community, she recalls, a “wonderful place to grow up.”

From a very young age, Selameab wanted to be a doctor. “It is the only thing I saw myself doing,” she says. “My parents don’t know where it came from, but it has been a consistent desire for as long as any of us can remember.” Her love for writing and literature has been equally consistent. “Never a vocation,” she says, “but my joy and creative outlet.” She now puts her early affinity for language to work as a physician who reflects on her own practice by participating in poetry slams, writing graphic essays, and introducing medical students to the many ways that art and medicine intersect.

Selameab splits her professional time 50-50 between clinical work and teaching—the former at the Center for International Health where many of her patients are refugees and immigrants, the latter at the University of Minnesota Medical School where she co-teaches the Becoming a Doctor course required of all third- and fourth-year medical students.

Mother of three daughters, ages 9, 8, and 6, Selameab and her husband Matthew Cain were recently named to the Como Park Honor Roll. They were nominated because they have “opened their hearts and home” to the neighborhood and have made it a “more welcoming place for all. . . [T]hey teach us how to boldly live and celebrate the belongingness we share
with each other and to this place.”

One of the big things Covid taught all of us, Selameab says, is the importance of community. “Our neighbors became our default community. We learned that we needed to make our own safety net, that no one was coming to help. It taught us to advocate for our children, for ourselves.”

Do you know some interesting history about your home, your neighbor or about the Como neighborhood? Anyone is welcome to do an interview, share historic photos or do a write up for the Know Your Como segment of our newsletter! For more information on how to submit go to our Know Your Como page.

Editor’s note: “The “Speaking of Race” special will air on TPT April 29, 30, May 1 and May 8.

Know Your Como note: If you enjoyed reading this story and have a neighbor that you would like to highlight with the greater community please visit Know Your Como to learn about the project and upload your story!