The recent outrage at the Delta airline company response to a situation where a young African-American doctor was denied the opportunity to aid someone in need because she did not look like a traditional doctor has started a campaign to show the world what a Black doctor looks like. Changing the public’s perception of what a doctor looks like from a middle-aged white male is not an easy task; however, it is a perception for many brave doctors and medical students to change. Growing up, many minorities have heard some variation of the quote, “the higher you climb, the less people you meet that will look like you.” This quote did not stop African-American students, who make four percent of practicing physicians, from persevering on to accomplish their dreams.
The Bell National Resource Center (BNRC) is home to many distinguished fellows, including Dr. Chigozirim “Chigo” Ekeke, who are breaking down barriers everyday. Dr. Ekeke is a general surgeon resident at the University of Pittsburg who is making a difference in the world with every patient he sees. He is an inspirational physician who promotes a safe and comfortable space for patients in order for them to have the most optimal medical experience. He is able to effectively impact his patient’s lives through the understanding that his work in surgical care alters patient’s everyday life. Morever, this is evident through the openness of his patients. He states, “The doctor and patient relationship is nearly sacred since most, if not all patients, are voluntarily vulnerable to me within minutes of discussion. Their vulnerability and willingness to trust me are extremely humbling and thus serves as motivation to me on a daily basis.” His passion keeps him going despite the long hours he works because he knows at the end of the day he is making a difference in someone’s quality of life.
Prior to becoming a doctor, Dr. Ekeke’s story begins with a Nigerian upbringing in Atlanta, Georgia. As a first-generation student at Ohio State, Chigo was heavily involved in his academic and community environment. He received many academic honors including winning first place in the Denman Research Forum and graduating with research distinction. Upon his initial exposure to the BRNC in 2007, Chigo left his mark on the organization in many ways from serving as founding member of an organization to being a peer mentor. He, along with a few of his close friends, started an organization called Band of Brothers (BOB), which created a pipeline for BNRC to intimately work to improve the academic, professional, and social environment of Black students. In a sense, his involvement with BOB set the precedence for his later work as a physician.
During his first year of medical school at Ohio State, Chigo was accepted into the Bell Fellowship Program. “The program allowed me to interact with graduate and professional student scholars who shared similar ideas with hopes to strengthen the Black male community at OSU through scholarship and professionalism. The program also provided avenues to enhance my medical school performance by funding trips to conferences and many sessions on networking and understanding the challenges that face many in the field of academia.” Using the wisdom he gained helped to mold him for his next step in life.
As a physician at the University of Pittsburg, Dr. Ekeke carries the tokens of the knowledge he learned through his collegiate years to “foster a stronger community amongst the students, particularly the African-American male population.” Furthermore, he “encourages any aspiring physician to remain curious, and be willing to step away from the comfort zone to achieve one's goals. To be a physician, is to be a committed scholar, advocate, a humble servant of the public.”
In short, Dr. Chigozirim “Chigo” Ekeke is a prime example of what a Black doctor looks like. He is a relentless and dedicated doctor whose drive to change the world for the better keeps him going. He is a phenomenal man and a proud Bell National Resource Center Fellow.
Written by Mariame Diabate, Bell Student