In celebration of Black History Month, we will be sharing a series of blog posts highlighting our clients and staff from the African diaspora. We are honored to share the stories of these amazing individuals, whom we celebrate not just this month, but throughout the year.
Meet Dr. Nnenna Ezeilo, an Otolaryngologist – Head & Neck Surgeon in Griffin, Georgia. Dr. Ezeilo is from Enugu, Nigeria. Enugu is a city in Southeast Nigeria where the predominant ethnicity is Nigerian Igbo. Enugu was the former capital of the now-defunct republic of Biafra. Dr. Ezeilo grew up in a household filled with medicine, where it was not uncommon for her father to admonish her for walking bare feet out of concern for her catching tetanus. Dr. Ezeilo’s father was a General Practitioner, who would often take Dr. Ezeilo and her brother with him to his medical clinic.
Dr. Nenna Ezeilo, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
“My father planted the seed of medicine in my mind that grew into the tree of my present reality. He expected me to do well in my science classes, so I think he was for “girls in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math)” before it became a thing. After I completed secondary school in Nigeria, I applied for universities both in Nigeria and in the US. My parents, specifically my mother, wanted myself and my two siblings to have more international exposure and to obtain a university education that would be competitive in the emerging global community. This has certainly paid off.”
Dr. Ezeilo graduated summa cum laude from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology while on an F-1 visa as an international student. Dr. Ezeilo went on to obtain her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana, also on in F-1 status. She completed her residency in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois in J-1 (Exchange Visitor) status.
Dr. Ezeilo is currently an Otolaryngologist-Head & Neck Surgeon at WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital and WellStar ENT Spalding in Griffin, Georgia. Both locations are in a medically underserved and health professional shortage area, and Dr. Ezeilo has provided medical care in these locations for almost three years. As an Otolaryngologist, Dr. Ezeilo provides comprehensive medical and surgical management of disorders and diseases of the ears, nose, sinuses, larynx, upper aerodigestive tract and the head and neck region. She cares for both adult and pediatric patients.
Dr. Nnenna Ezeilo, Otolaryngologist – Head & Neck Surgeon at Wellstar in Griffin, GA
Dr. Ezeilo’s medical services in Griffin, Georgia has increased the availability of otolaryngology services to patients in that underserved area. Dr. Ezeilo ensures that consistent and competent coverage for patients is available in this region. Her work in Griffin, Georgia means that persons from the local medically underserved community will not be forced to travel outside this area to receive otolaryngology treatment since Dr. Ezeilo will provide consistent care to help patients and their families suffering extreme hardship.
“My favorite part of being a physician is getting to know my patients more as people, apart from their medical issues. I have cared for veterans, first generation Americans, and patients who have traveled widely from the Mount Sinai Region in Egypt to Mongolia, Asia. Through my practice of medicine, I strive to connect with my patients on a personal level. I especially like to make my pediatric patients feel at ease in my clinic. It is not unusual for a child to run up and hug me at the end of their clinic visit.”
Dr. Ezeilo is passionate about increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in Otolaryngology, particularly aspiring black physicians. She has mentored two former medical students who successfully matched into Otolaryngology residency. Through the Black Otolaryngology Network, Dr. Ezeilo has participated in mock residency interviews to prepare medical students for their residency interviews. She has also assisted a few International Medical Graduates with understanding the US Medical Residency application process.
As a member of the African diaspora, Dr. Ezeilo has a deep connection with black history, not only through her own background, but also through experiences, relationships, and everything she has learned as a result while living in the U.S.
“During my time in the US, I have fostered friendships with Caribbean people and Americans of African descent and have learned more about the history and culture of this side of the world. I appreciate the deep history of the colossal struggle of black people to actualize equality, equity, and full citizenship rights in the U.S. and the rest of the world.”
When asked about hardships during her career and how she stays motivated, Dr. Ezeilo replied:
“It has been tough to stay upbeat throughout this devastating COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is no better feeling than helping heal a patient either through medical or surgical care. It is so rewarding to hear a patient say how much better they feel and to express their gratitude.Honestly, this positive patient interaction keeps me going. A happy patient makes a happy doctor.”
Dr. Ezeilo believes that it is important to choose a career path in a field you are passionate about. She herself enjoys what she does, and she believes that because of her passion for medicine, she is always striving to be better in her field.
“Sometimes I do preparatory work for difficult patient cases, where I read up on current literature and re-visit my textbooks. I get so excited to deepen my understanding of disease processes in Otolaryngology, which is confirmation that I am in the right field and truly a nerd at heart.”
On that note, I leave you with this parting story:
The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie was accepted to study Medicine at the University of Nigeria because by Nigerian convention, smart people belong in Medicine. Fortunately, Ms. Adichie moved to the US and graduated with a Bachelor of Art from Eastern Connecticut State University. Presently, Ms. Adichie is a writer of international repute and regarded as one of the greatest essayists of her generation. Ms. Adichie has had audiences with notable world leaders from U.S. President Obama to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
Follow your passion and put in the hard work to realize your dreams.
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