Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I currently work at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. area. I spend part of my time seeing patients and teaching residents and medical students in our general internal medicine ward teams. I also spend time working in our Office of Population Health. In this role, I design care management interventions for patients who are at risk of unnecessary bad clinical outcomes, I coordinate care between our hospitals and post-acute facilities, and I evaluate and lead clinical strategies on payment models that empower our physicians to deliver care in a way that is convenient to patients.
I grew up in Nigeria, and I moved to Canada when I was 11 years old. My parents are both pharmacists and my family moved around for a few years when we first moved to Canada, as my parents completed their exams and repeated their clinical training. I stumbled on the UCC website one day after school and, enamoured by the opportunities UCC offered, I decided to apply. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship, which made UCC more affordable to my parents.
After UCC, I studied economics at Harvard — Larry Lajeunesse, who taught me IB economics, was one of my favourite teachers at UCC. After college, I was interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. However, from my education and my experiences in Canada and Nigeria, I knew that health outcomes for patients were shaped by more than just the clinical care that patients received. I wanted a career that allowed me to address both of these medical and social issues. I attended medical school and business school at Harvard, and I completed my residency in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?
The most challenging parts of my job as a doctor are the moments in which I feel completely helpless as a physician. This happens when I sit at a patient’s bedside and tell them and their families that the time that they have together is much shorter than they had thought. It’s always difficult not to internalize the look of disappointment and sadness on their faces. This feeling of helplessness as a physician also occurs when I’m trying to help patients navigate through a healthcare system that sometimes ignores the social determinants of their health conditions and is not designed to help them easily solve their medical problems.
What’s the most rewarding aspect?
The most rewarding aspects of medicine are the relationships that I develop with patients. I work as a hospital-based clinician, and therefore I only see patients when they are sick enough to be hospitalized. It is easy to forget that the patient lying in the bed in front of you is also someone’s high school teacher, grandmother or best friend. I always try to learn about my patients so I can see beyond the clinical symptoms that brought them to the hospital to the lives they hope to return to when they leave.
Do you have any advice for UCC students interested in pursuing medicine?
First, don’t be deterred by the length of training, because it can be an incredibly rewarding career. Second, medicine needs people from all academic, socio-economic and racial backgrounds. Therefore, if you’ve never had a doctor who looked like you, that’s even more reason to become a doctor. Finally, you don’t have to be a doctor to have an impact in healthcare. Therefore, it’s important before preparing for medical school to determine, through shadowing and speaking to physicians, if you want to practise medicine. Of course, the answer might change once you begin practising and as your career evolves.
Tell us what your experience at UCC was like in boarding? How did your time at UCC prepare you for life?
I was a boarder for all four years at UCC. I was very homesick when I first started, and I would call my poor mother to take me home almost every weekend. But thanks to the seniors and teachers who made Wedd’s House feel like a home, I grew to love the experience. I was fortunate to make good friends during my time at UCC and formed strong mentorship relationships with my teachers. Academically, I think the IB Programme is one of the biggest strengths of UCC, because the liberal arts orientation pushed me to take courses and develop interests in disciplines that I would never have considered.
What’s something you wish you could tell your young UCC self?
At UCC, I was acutely aware of how different I was as a Nigerian immigrant in a class with only one other black person. I spent a lot of time trying to fit in or feeling that my views were less valid because I was different. UCC has changed a lot since I attended, and I admire the pluralism strategy that the school has adopted. However, change is slow and [UCC being an independent school] means that it will never truly reflect the worlds that you will live in after high school and in your professional careers. Therefore, I wish I had spent more time trying to make UCC more inclusive for myself and others who didn’t fit in. I wish I had spoken up more often when I was in a situation that made others uncomfortable rather than feeling relief that the spotlight was not on me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My grandfather owned a bookstore in Nigeria, and my family always encouraged me to read. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. Through literature, I have been able to discover perspectives different from my own, and I think that has made me a better person and hopefully a better physician.