History-making Physician Balances Busy Work and Home Life

Scripps physician is first Black female president of San Diego Medical Society

Toluwalase Ajayi, MD, a palliative care physician at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center, says she had three career options as a young girl: a superhero, a stand-up comedian or a pediatrician.


Today, she holds at least two of those titles (though some may argue all three). The Nigerian-born mom of two recently became the first Black woman and the youngest president of the San Diego County Medical Society

Her passion for medicine is rooted in her upbringing as an immigrant and the work ethic and tenacity of her parents. Dr. Ajayi hopes to use the honor of leading the San Diego County Medical Society to highlight disparities in the health system that she and countless others have experienced.

“When I emigrated from Nigeria at the age of about 7, I went through a public health system that made me feel less than human,” she says. “It made me feel dirty and unwanted. I told my mom then that I wanted to be a doctor for children, so they always feel cared for.”

Focusing on physician wellness

Dr. Ajayi also plans to work with various health systems to focus on physician wellness, which was impacted significantly by the pandemic. 

“COVID-19 heightened the burnout that so many of our colleagues were already feeling and compounded an already significant workforce shortage,” she says. “I want to highlight how the physician experience truly goes hand-in-hand with patient wellness.”

Busy working parent

When Dr. Ajayi is not leading the local health care industry, she is spending time with her husband, a physician with another local health care system, and her daughters, ages 4 and 15 months, and 12-year-old stepson. 

She enjoys taking the kids to dance classes, swimming, tennis and their other hobbies, and in her free time, she runs and cooks. To juggle life as a busy working parent, she remembers to give herself grace.

“I know that it’s OK that I sometimes have to either prioritize work or family first — they can’t both be first all the time. This allows me to focus on one aspect and lean on my support systems for the other part. I do the best I can, and so far, it’s been working,” she says. 

Generational role model

Dr. Ajayi hopes her presence and purpose will inspire others. 

She may be the first Black woman to lead the San Diego County Medical Society, “but I opened the doors for so many more to come after me,” she says. 

“I helped show how much we can truly accomplish for the betterment of others, when we work together.” 

The cover of the September 2022 issue of San Diego Health Magazine.

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.

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