ASH Clinical News ACN_4.5_FULL_ISSUE_DIGITAL - Page 11

Pulling Back the Curtain

Olatoyosi Odenike , MD

UP FRONT
In this edition , Olatoyosi Odenike , MD , speaks about her “ rebellious ” path to medical school in Nigeria , the importance of life ’ s tangents , and her passion for cooking . Dr . Odenike is an associate professor of medicine in the hematology / oncology section at the University of Chicago .
When did you become interested in medicine ? My mom is a medical laboratory technologist and her lab also has a blood bank , so I got an early introduction to patient care and hematology from her . She also gave me my first job : Throughout high school , I worked as a receptionist for her lab during the summer .
My mother is an incredibly strong woman who passed her work ethic down to me and my three siblings . Working for her was no walk in the park ; I had to show up on time , put in the hours , check patients in , and , as the front-desk receptionist , I was the “ face ” of the lab . I learned that this work was an important part of helping people recuperate and was something to be applauded .
I got my love of academics from my father . He was not a physician , but he was a scientist and a professor of chemistry and soil science . I loved the way he thought about problems , his passion for his work , and the importance he placed on contributing to one ’ s field .
He was a great teacher ; my sister and I excelled in chemistry because of his work . I remember taking my high school chemistry exams and thinking , “ This is ridiculously easy – thank you , Dad !”
That ability to teach others effectively – the way he could break down complex ideas into basic principles – is a skill that I still use today with patients and trainees .
Did you ever think about pursuing a career in another field ? I had a brief diversion after high school . In Nigeria , you go into medical school directly after high school , without earning a four-year degree , so I needed to figure out what I wanted to do for my career pretty early . People in my family assumed that I would go into medicine , but I was a little rebellious . When I graduated from high school and was thinking about college , I thought , “ I ’ m not going to do what everybody ’ s expecting – I ’ m going to be an engineer .”
What attracted you to engineering ? I was exposed to the field growing up because people in my extended family were engineers . They all seemed like such bright people and I thought it would be a good choice . Also , I liked
that it was a challenging career and , at the time , I thought engineering might be even more challenging than medicine .
Deep down , I think I knew that I wasn ’ t going to be an engineer . Within the first couple of years , I realized I wasn ’ t very passionate about it .
I thought that I should probably go into medicine – even if that ended up being what others had told me I would be all along ! As soon as I got into medical school , I felt like I was at home .
I think going off on tangents may not be such a bad thing for human beings . When you retrace your steps on the way to finding what you were truly meant for , it helps you appreciate the contrast even more . Everything fell into place when I righted my course .
What was different about medicine ? Why did you feel that instant connection ? I can ’ t quite put my finger on it … I was just so interested in learning about how the human body works . When I was taking the basic courses in physiology , anatomy , and biology , I found all of it fascinating – unlike when I was in engineering .
After you decided on medicine , what drew you to specialize in hematology ? I loved the challenge it presented . I saw people who had myeloid malignancies and did not have good treatment options . I thought , “ Wouldn ’ t that be an interesting problem to help solve ?”
Who played a role in shaping your career ? Many people have influenced my career path and how I approach my work on a daily basis .
Dr . Odenike ( right ) in a bookstore , with her husband and their 13-year-old son ( who she said is going through a “ smiling in photos is lame ” phase ).
Nancy Zeleznik-Le , PhD , provided me with hands-on experience and mentoring during my training . Harvey Golomb , MD , was my section chief throughout my fellowship and took a chance on accepting a foreign medical school graduate into the University of Chicago ’ s fellowship program . Richard Larson , MD , and Wendy Stock , MD , also opened many doors for me and are people whom I ’ ve respected and learned from over time .
One of my earliest mentors in hematology / oncology was Janet Rowley , MD , a legendary physician-scientist who received many of the American Society of Hematology ’ s prestigious awards . [ Editor ’ s Note : Most recently , Dr . Rowley was a recipient of the 2011 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize .] I was lucky enough to work in her lab as a fellow . Aside from the numerous fundamental discoveries she made , Dr . Rowley also was a generous human being . It was wonderful of her to allow me to spend time in her lab , even though I didn ’ t have a solid background in basic science or molecular biology .
She believed in collaboration ; everyone ’ s
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UP FRONT Pulling Back the Curtain Olatoyosi Odenike, MD In this edition, Olatoyosi Odenike, MD, speaks about her “rebellious” path to medical school in Nigeria, the importance of life’s tangents, and her passion for cooking. Dr. Odenike is an associate professor of medicine in the hematology/ oncology section at the University of Chicago. When did you become interested in medicine? My mom is a medical laboratory technologist and her lab also has a blood bank, so I got an early introduction to patient care and hematology from her. She also gave me my first job: Throughout high school, I worked as a receptionist for her lab during the summer. My mother is an incredibly strong woman who passed her work ethic down to me and my three siblings. Working for her was no walk in the park; I had to show up on time, put in the hours, check patients in, and, as the front-desk receptionist, I was the “face” of the lab. I learned that this work was an important part of helping people recuperate and was something to be applauded. I got my love of academics from my father. He was not a physician, but he was a scientist and a professor of chemistry and soil science. I loved the way he thought about problems, his passion for his work, and the importance he placed on contributing to one’s field. He was a great teacher; my sister and I excelled in chemistry because of his work. I remember taking my high school chemistry exams and thinking, “This is ridiculously easy – thank you, Dad!” That ability to teach others effectively – the way he could break down complex ideas into basic principles – is a skill that I still use today with patients and trainees. Did you ever think about pursuing a career in another field? I had a brief diversion after high school. In Nigeria, you go into medical school directly after high school, without earning a four-year degree, so I needed to figure out what I wanted to do for my career pretty early. People in my family assumed that I would go into medicine, but I was a little rebellious. When I graduated from high school and was thinking about college, I thought, “I’m not going to do what everybody’s expecting – I’m going to be an engineer.” What attracted you to engineering? I was exposed to the field growing up because people in my extended family were engineers. They all seemed like such bright people and I thought it would be a good choice. Also, I liked ASHClinicalNews.org that it was a challenging career and, at the time, I thought engineering might be even more challenging than medicine. Deep down, I think I knew that I wasn’t going to be an engineer. Within the first couple of years, I realized I wasn’t very passionate about it. I thought that I should probably go into medicine – even if that ended up being what others had told me I would be all along! As soon as I got into medical school, I felt like I was at home. I think going off on tangents may not be such a bad thing for human beings. When you retrace your steps on the way to finding what you were truly meant for, it helps you appreciate the contrast even more. Everything fell into place when I righted my course. What was different about medicine? Why did you feel that instant connection? I can’t quite put my finger on it … I was just so interested in learning about how the human body works. When I was taking the basic courses in physiology, anatomy, and biology, I found all of it fascinating – unlike when I was in engineering. After you decided on medicine, what drew you to specialize in hematology? I loved the challenge it presented. I saw people who had myeloid malignancies and did not have good treatment options. I thought, “Wouldn’t that be an interesting problem to help solve?” Who played a role in shaping your career? Many people have influenced my career path and how I approach my work on a daily basis. Dr. Odenike (right) in a bookstore, with her husband and their 13-year-old son (who she said is going through a “smiling in photos is lame” phase). Nancy Zeleznik-Le, PhD, provided me with hands-on experience and mentoring during my training. Harvey Golomb, MD, was my section chief throughout my fellowship and took a chance on accepting a foreign medical school graduate into the University of Chicago’s fellowship prog &&6&B'6B@vVG7F6B6VVBF'0f"RB&RVRv( fR&W7V7FVB@V&VBg&fW"FRRbגV&ƖW7BVF'2VFw6wv2WB&vWBVvVF'6666VF7Bv&V6VfVBbFPW&666WGbVFw( 2&W7FvW0v&G2VFF.( 2FS7B&V6VFǒG"&vWv2&V6VBbFR#W&W7B&WWFW V7GW&RB&Rv2V6VVvFv&W""2fVr6FRg&FPVW&W2gVFVFF66fW&W26RFRG"&vW6v2vVW&W2V&VrगBv2vFW&gVbW"FrRF7V@FRW""WfVFVvFF( BfR6ƖB&6w&VB&6266V6R"V7V &w6R&VƖWfVB6&&FWfW'^( 046Ɩ6Ww0