ABILITY IN DISABILITY: Nigerian born Naturalized American Medical Genius, DR. OLUWAFERANMI OKANLAMI earlier suffered spinal cord injury, paralyzed from the neck down en-route to becoming an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Yale …Presently an Assistant Professor for Family Medicine & Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation * Reigns as Director of MDisability Community Engagement, Director of Adaptive Sports in Michigan Center for Human Athletic Medicine and Performance at Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan * Working as Spokesperson for Guardian Life in their Equal & Able partnership, Serving on St. Joseph County Board of Health as appointed by former Mayor Pete Buttigieg *Bagged MD from University of Michigan, earned Master’s degree in Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship from The University of Notre Dame; completed Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana * On Board of the River City Challenged Athletes, featured on Robin Robert’s Good Morning America Series, received Michigan Medicine’s Distinguished Early Career Alumni Award in 2020, serving on the Board of the Michigan Medicine Alumni Society * “In 2013, I was on my way to becoming an Orthopaedic Surgeon. The University of Michigan Medical School graduate was in his third year of residency at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut at that time. I jumped into the pool. I didn’t do a backflip or anything like that. There was no diving board, but I hit either the ground or the side of the pool or someone’s leg. I can’t be completely sure, but immediately I was unable to move anything from my chest down. In my mind, I was thinking of next steps: Stabilize my spine, get me onto the stretcher and get me to the hospital. My medical instincts kicked in”-Okanlami * BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN Foreign Bureau Chief


ABILITY IN DISABILITY:

Nigerian born Naturalized American Medical Genius, DR. OLUWAFERANMI OKANLAMI earlier suffered spinal cord injury, paralyzed from the neck down en-route to becoming an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Yale

…Presently an Assistant Professor for Family Medicine & Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

* Reigns as Director of MDisability Community Engagement, Director of Adaptive Sports in Michigan Center for Human Athletic Medicine and Performance at Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan

* Working as Spokesperson for Guardian Life in their Equal & Able partnership, Serving on St. Joseph County Board of Health as appointed by former Mayor Pete Buttigieg

*Bagged MD from University of Michigan, earned Master’s degree in Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship from The University of Notre Dame; completed Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana

* On Board of the River City Challenged Athletes, featured on Robin Robert’s Good Morning America Series, received Michigan Medicine’s Distinguished Early Career Alumni Award in 2020, serving on the Board of the Michigan Medicine Alumni Society

* “In 2013, I was on my way to becoming an Orthopaedic Surgeon. The University of Michigan Medical School graduate was in his third year of residency at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut at that time. I jumped into the pool. I didn’t do a backflip or anything like that. There was no diving board, but I hit either the ground or the side of the pool or someone’s leg. I can’t be completely sure, but immediately I was unable to move anything from my chest down. In my mind, I was thinking of next steps: Stabilize my spine, get me onto the stretcher and get me to the hospital. My medical instincts kicked in”-Okanlami

* BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN Foreign Bureau Chief

HE HAS PROVEN THAT THERE IS STREGHT IN ABILITY even in the face of disability. In the whole of Michigan, also within the environment of the prestigious University of Michigan, Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, a Nigerian born American Naturalized Orthopaedic Surgeon stands out. An event happened in his life which turned the story of his life around. Yet, he has realized his dream and living it to the highest potential in United States of America. He has been a patient and a doctor in that scenario.

In 2013, Okanlami was on his way to becoming an Orthopaedic Surgeon. That was when the University of Michigan Medical School graduate were in their third year of residency at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. His dreams were almost derailed after sustaining a spinal cord injury at a Fourth of July pool party with friends and fellow residents.

His word: “I jumped into the pool. I didn’t do a backflip or anything like that. There was no diving board, but I hit either the ground or the side of the pool or someone’s leg. I can’t be completely sure, but immediately I was unable to move anything from my chest down. My medical instincts kicked in. In my mind, I was thinking of next steps: Stabilize my spine, get me onto the stretcher and get me to the hospital.”

He also credits his colleagues for the expert care he was given from the beginning, when they quickly sprang into action, getting him from the pool to the emergency department and onto the operating room table in record time

Okanlami’s journey after the accident seems like something out of a Hollywood movie. Despite breaking his neck and becoming paralyzed from the neck down, he never doubted he’d be able to live a productive and independent life, still planning to leave his mark on the world.

“I have an interesting intersection of science and faith, such that even if doctors had said to me I would never walk again, I wasn’t going to let that limit what I hoped for my recovery,” Okanlami says. “I know there is so much we don’t know about spinal cord injury, and I know the Lord can work miracles.”

On Sept. 8, 2013, just two months after the accident, Okanlami moved his leg again. “It was one of the most amazing days of my life,” he says. “It wasn’t a small flicker of a little muscle. I extended my leg at the knee. It was pretty sweet.”

The accident didn’t end Okanlami’s professional pursuit, but it did send him down a different path. After months of inpatient rehabilitation, he moved home to South Bend, Indiana, to live with his parents, both doctors themselves, to continue extensive outpatient rehabilitation.

While learning to walk again, Okanlami found time for many other achievements. He earned a master’s degree in engineering, science and technology entrepreneurship from the ESTEEM Programat the University of Notre Dame. He was appointed by the mayor of South Bend to sit on the county’s board of health. He became the coach of the River City Rollers, a wheelchair basketball team. And as if all of that weren’t enough, he also went back to being a doctor.

“During my rehabilitation period, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to work as a physician in the family medicine residency program at Memorial Hospital” in South Bend, says Okanlami. “I was able to take care of patients from cradle to grave, delivering babies, taking care of patients in nursing homes and everything in between.”

His journey comes full circle in early 2018 when he joins the Family Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation faculty at Michigan Medicine. Dedicated to the belief that disability does not mean inability, Okanlami is more than just a doctor. He’s also an advocate and mentor for physicians and patients with similar backgrounds.

More than 20 percent of Americans live with a disability, after all, but as few as 2.7 percent of them are practicing physicians. One reason for the gap: Technical standards used for admission at many medical schools require physical aptitude, which can inadvertently exclude applicants with disabilities.

Okanlami found a perfect match at UM Family Medicine. A new social media campaign, #DocsWithDisabilities, based out of the Family Medicine department, is working to raise awareness about doctors with disabilities. Okanlami and his colleagues share a passion for and a focus on disability inclusion in medicine that is fueling their research agenda. Doctors Philip Zazove, Michael McKee, Lisa Meeks and others are researching mechanisms for improving access to medicine for physician, learner and patient populations.

“Increasing physician diversity has a positive impact on patient care and access for other marginalized groups,” and it may result in similar improvements for patients with disabilities, says Meeks, a leading researcher in disabilities in medical education and a clinician scholar at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Okanlami’s vision has led to a joint appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as a role in The Office for Health Equity and Inclusion — partnerships he hopes to further his desire to “disabuse disability” and create a health system that is inclusive and accessible to all. While he can’t run yet, Okanlami can walk using assistive devices, some of which he has worked with a rehabilitation engineer to design and create. He also has a standing frame wheelchair that has been more versatile than he could have imagined. Despite his love for gadgets, he still tries to make time for regular exercise to stay physically fit for now, but with a goal of leaving the assistive devices behind some day.

For the record, Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine & Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Director of MDisability Community Engagement, and Director of Adaptive Sports in Michigan Center for Human Athletic Medicine and Performance at Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan. He also serves as the Spokesperson for Guardian Life in their Equal & Able partnership.

“Dr. O” was born in Nigeria before immigrating to the US at a young age. He attended High School at Deerfield Academy and college at Stanford University where he also ran Track & Field serving as captain his last two seasons and achieving Academic All American recognition.

He then earned his MD from the University of Michigan before matching into Orthopedic Surgery at Yale. At the beginning of his 3rdyear he experienced a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the chest down. After two surgeries and intense rehabilitation, he was blessed with some return of motor function.

He went on to earn a Master’s in Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship from The University of Notre Dame, and completed his Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. He served on the St. Joseph County Board of Health, appointed by former Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and is on the Board of the River City Challenged Athletes, a non-profit supporting the local adaptive sports teams. He was featured on Robin Robert’s Good Morning America Series “Thriver Thursday,” and has a catch phrase, “Disabusing Disability,” hoping to demonstrate that DISability doesn’t mean INability. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society, received Michigan Medicine’s Distinguished Early Career Alumni Award in 2020, serves on the Board of the Michigan Medicine Alumni Society, and was given the “A Teacher’s Teacher Award” by the Academy of Medical Educators.

Nationally, he serves on the Steering Committee for the Group on Diversity and Inclusion at the AAMC, speaks around the country on topics related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, including, but not limited to the lack of black male physicians and creating a health system that is accessible and inclusive to both patients and providers with disabilities. He is leading efforts to create an adaptive sports program, providing access to physical fitness and recreational and competitive sports for all.

CERTAINLY, Good journalism costs a lot of money. Without doubt, only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government. We are ready to hold every corrupt government accountable to the citizens.

To continually enjoy free access to the best investigative journalism in Nigeria, we are requesting of you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour. By contributing to NAIJA STANDARD NEWSPAPER, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all without fear or favor.

Your donation is voluntary — please decide how much and how often you want to give. For offline donation, email: letters@nigeriastandardnewspaper.com or call +2348037128048 (Nigeria) or +16825834890 (United States of America)

donation

* are compulsory
cardlogos

Filed in: Health

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply