Abena Annor, Class of 2025 – Resident profile

Dr. Abena Annor chose to pursue neurology by way of math; her love for mathematical biology eventually led her to discover a passion for medicine. During her time in Nashville, Dr. Annor has met a group of other Ghanaians with whom she can explore the city and connect to her culture. In her free time, she enjoys giving back to the community through volunteer work. 

Tell us about your background.

I’m originally from Ghana, specifically a city named Kumasi. My father immigrated here first, and later on we joined him in Florida. I have four siblings, and I’m the middle child. I went to high school in West Palm Beach, Florida, then attended University of Florida for undergrad. I ended up at the University of South Florida for medical school. I chose neurology because I was just so fascinated by it.

What initially piqued your interest in medicine, and what was it about neurology that made it so fascinating?

Initially, I was a math major in undergrad, and I majored in math because I really enjoyed it. I had AP math courses in high school and I did well on the AP exams, so knowing I was good at it and liked it just gave me the confidence to keep going. I got very interested in mathematical biology, the mathematical modeling of biological systems. But the end goal of pursuing math would ultimately be to become a professor of math, so I had to ask myself if I wanted to continue on that path. I really enjoyed math, but there is not a lot of interaction with people. My sister was in medical school at that time, so I was already aware of medicine; I ended up deciding to pursue it because I liked that interaction with people. I needed to ask myself, “What would make me feel like I used my life for good?” And the answer to that would be medicine!

In medical school, it was hard deciding what specialty to pursue. In the end I was torn between physical medicine and rehab (PMR) or neurology. There is a lot of overlap between the two. There is a [Traumatic Brain Injury] and spinal cord service in physical medicine that I particularly liked. I ultimately decided on pursuing neurology because it encompasses everything that I liked about PMR plus much more that I was interested in as well. 

What initially attracted you to Vanderbilt for residency? 

My interview was very relaxed. Everyone was so easygoing, welcoming, and nice. I wasn’t stressed at all. I did not really know anything about Nashville except from Hannah Montana! But I was intrigued even more by the interaction I had with the people I interviewed with. 

Being here, I feel like I have a better understanding of Nashville now. It seems very progressive, and I like that. I’ve seen all kinds of people here. Training at Vanderbilt is the only time in my whole educational experience in America where I’ve been around so many other Ghanaians. I’ve met several Ghanaian residents in different specialties, and we like to hang out together. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to engage in that part of my culture so meeting them has been precious. I love getting to talk with them about African restaurants and stores here, looking for foods from home, and speaking to them in my native language. 

What have been some of the biggest obstacles or challenges for your career thus far? 

I think the biggest big-picture challenge that I couldn't appreciate until the end of medical school is work-life balance. Previously, the vast majority of my time was focused on school work. Now I’m trying to get that work-life balance back and shift it so that I am being fulfilled by my personal life as well. It’s a big challenge, but I’m working on that. I do think I’ve picked a good speciality for that because generally neurology is not as intense as specialties like surgery or internal medicine. 

What about rewards?

Every day I find myself fascinated by some new neurology fact that I learned or a new patient presentation. I am very satisfied with the work that I do. I am intellectually fulfilled and I am able to help people at the same time.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I like volunteer work. It makes me feel good to help other people. I have found opportunities through “Hands On Nashville.” One such opportunity that I have been participating in on a regular basis is a program that the Greater Nashville Regional Council oversees called the Public Guardianship for the Elderly program. A few months ago, I came upon the opportunity to volunteer with the program, and essentially, a couple of times per month, I pay a social visit to my elderly friends and report back to the Public conservator about how they are doing. This has been fun to do. 

Other than volunteer work, I like to go to museums and parks. I binge watch a lot of reality TV shows. I like to cook. I have some plants I am trying to keep alive. I like sewing things, which I became interested in during the first year of medical school. I like polishing my hair braiding skills too.

What’s something you are always recommending to others?

I have this very easy food that I make when I’m hungry and just too lazy to do anything. It’s essentially cooked white rice and some lightly salted roasted peanuts, and you just kind of put it together. It’s very easy to make and delicious!