From resident to associate professor: Inspiring story of Dr Olasunkanmi Adeyinka’s sojourn in a foreign land

July 1, 2021
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Hard work, perseverance and dedication to duty are some of the few attributes that stand people out in their endeavours. But for Dr Olasunkanmi Adeyinka, succeeding in a foreign land required more than those. Hers were undying and palpable passion, drive to succeed, openness to new knowledge and a humane heart.

It started when she graduated from the University of Texas Health family medicine residency program in the inaugural class of 1993. But really, the decision to succeed was made way before her graduation that year. Meanwhile, before her enrollment in 1990 for the University of Texas Residency Programme, ‘Sunky’ — as Grant Fowler, Professor and Chair of Family and Community Medicine TCU/ UNT Medical School and John Peter Smith (JPS, Tarrant County) Healthcare System, would call her in his recommendation letter for Dr Adeyinka’s promotion — received undergraduate training at the Federal School of Arts and Science, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, from 1977 to 1980. Then she moved to the University of Lagos College of Medicine, Lagos, Nigeria for her graduate studies.

As a third-year resident, Dr Adeyinka was heavily involved with the academics and was in charge of the lecture schedule for her peers and taught didactics for junior residents. Due to her outstanding performance, she was awarded the best teaching resident in her graduating class. This role, coupled with Dr Adeyinka’s early success, marked the beginning of her keen interest in becoming a faculty member and laid a good foundation for her passion and aspiration of becoming an Associate and full Professor of Medicine.

These deliberate steps prepared her for the future.

Upon completing her residency, Dr Adeyinka pursued an appointment in the department of family and community medicine, and was assigned to the Acres Home Clinic with Harris Health which was a teaching site for the program. Impressed with her performance, the management appointed her the Residency Site Coordinator for the programme within one year of becoming a faculty member. In this new role, she excelled. For example, among other achievements, he successfully initiated all efforts needed to establish a procedure clinic and prenatal care which are essential for family medicine residency training programme which was the very first time Harris health administration welcomed such a programme. Both programmes are still operational today and have leveraged other Residency Training with Harris health.

Keeping with her characteristic drive for continuous personal development, she acquired additional training and became an instructor for the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO). In 1998, she became the course director for ALSO in conjunction with the AAFP. This course was offered to other family medicine residency programmes in Houston. Her efforts earned her nominations for several teaching awards which include being appointed Medical Director of the faculty practice and the UTPB, a position she held until 2011. 

During her tenure, she streamlined the clinical operations, and assisted the department in recruiting fellow faculty; and remained actively involved in the supervision of residents and medical students assigned to the site. With the advent of electronic health records into medicine, Dr Adeyinka helped in the transition of the clinic from paper to electronic health records ALLSCRIPT, and led efforts to utilize all modules of the application including charge capture.

Dr Adeyinka places a premium on family and believes that there should be a balance between family life and career life. While she developed a keen interest in the electronic record and became heavily involved in improving its functionality to her physician colleagues, she decided to step down from her position as Medical Director and became a part time faculty member, sharing her time with family medicine and clinical technology.

While maintaining a part time position on the faculty, she gained employment as a part time hospitalist at the Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. At that facility, she was actively involved with the Medical Staff, and became a member of several committees.

Dr Adeyinka did not rest on her oars. So, in 2015, she became heavily involved with clinical technology and continued to improve her skills as a clinician with clinical technology experience. She continued to strive and provided leadership in this aspect and was named Associate Chief Medical Information Officer, a position she held for five years and also continued to practise full-scope family medicine. On an interim basis, she was appointed as Assistant Chief of Staff at Harris health for 18 months.

The clinician

On her graduation in 1993, Dr Adeyinka joined the faculty of the department of family and community medicine as clinician educator and was assigned to Acres home clinic which is part of the Harris health clinic. Since then, she has practised full-scope family medicine, including the performance of primary care procedures and also prenatal care. 

“My percentage of clinical obligation also varied and balanced with my administrative duties and has also varied from site to site”, Dr Adeyinka says. 

“When I became medical director, I also continued to perform my clinical obligations, I maintained an active patient panel and paid close attention to ambulatory clinical and safety measures. I continued to perform above average on preventive clinical measures, and have received several positive comments from my patients”.

She explained further: “I have also functioned as attending physician initially at the LBJ family service and at the memorial Hermann service and directed the clinical operation and led efforts to maintain adequate patient volume. I supervised pregnant women and had my own continuity obstetrics care.

“During a period of high clinical obligations, I had above average RVU and had qualified for the clinical incentive as stipulated by the department. I have been named as one of the Best Doctors in the central region for several years. In the last few years, my clinical obligation has been reduced in lieu of my clinical technology affiliation and I have focused on improving documentation and use for my fellow clinicians.”

Scholarly Adeyinka

Since joining the department, Dr Adeyinka has been involved in medical student and residency education. Apart from participating in the first year medical student ICM course and being fully engaged in teaching third and fourth year medical students during his continuity clinic at the UTPB family medicine clinic and also getting involved in precepting residents in their continuity clinic, she coordinated the resident and attending supervisory schedule to ensure adequate supervision.

She got involved in teaching activities like lecture series of resident, including both clinical lectures as well as practice management lectures for all three levels of the residency program and held her position as the compliance officer for the department of family medicine with passion. Her dedication has brought her several teaching awards including receiving the Dean’s Excellence Teaching Award three times; and the Most Outstanding Faculty Member, Hermann/LBJ Family Practice Residency, twice. 

After obtaining extra training on the business of medicine, she currently offers third resident an elective in practice management — this spans over four weeks during which residents get exposure to the non-clinical aspects of medicine. This elective has had an outstanding evaluation from the resident who has participated, an average of two-three resident per year.

Dr Adeyinka has had challenges of being heavily involved in clinical research. But her commitment has had her direct efforts towards scholarly activities and continues to explore ways of improvement. She has been a faculty sponsor for many of the third year resident projects and some have been presented at meetings in the US. She has given local and national presentations both in Texas and across the US and authored a few chapters in books.

An administrator who gives back to the community

Dr Adeyinka has invested efforts in service and administration, latching on the opportunities her department and UT health have provided for her to thrive, so much so that she has sat and still sits in several committees both in the hospital and on the faculty practice plan of UT PHYSICIANS. She is an erstwhile faculty senator and currently a member of the institution’s ethics committee.

In her role as a physician champion for the institution’s electronic health record, and now the Associate CMIO, she has served as Executive Sponsor for several projects pertaining to the use and optimization of ALLSCRIPTS and remains as the Executive Sponsor for UT physician for this application until its replacement in May of 2021. Dr Adeyinka continues to lead the coordinated effort to maintain its current functionality. She has also participated in the creation of templates for end users involved in the training of clinicians and provide on-site support for clinicians who may encounter problems with the use of the applications. 

Interestingly, she currently serves as lead clinician for the institution’s MIPS/MACRA, the regulatory incentive programme based on quality of care. 

In the past few years, Dr Adeyinka has served the institution in many capacities, including serving as the Interim Assistant Chief of Staff at Harris health, for 18 months, during which she supervised seven medical directors and 75 physicians to optimize their performance. She also streamlined most of the clinical operations and assisted in interviewing and recruiting primary care physicians for the institution’s seven clinics within Harris health.

In this role, she collaborated with Harris Health leadership and served on several committees. As the compliance officer for the department of family and community medicine and community-based clinic, she has been involved in the creation and monitoring of the compliance programme and its review every year to minimize at-risk behaviours. She keeps abreast of the institution’s audit programme; and when at-risk behaviours are identified, she has met with faculty to discuss corrective actions. Dr Adeyinka has been engaged with the education of all faculty in the department on billing and compliance issues and conduct compliance meetings as stipulated by the institution.

Beyond being a clinician, an administrator and researcher, Dr Adeyinka has a soft spot for humanity, hence her belief that “Giving back to the community is not negotiable”. 

Sincere commitment to render selfless services to the needy and make significant contributions to develop the life of a common man, she says, is a clarion call. This call has made her dedicate almost three decades of her life to serving humanity within the Houston community.

For the past two decades, she has been actively involved in coordinating efforts to secure medical services for some Houston underprivileged and uninsured individuals. As a leader in the African Immigrant Community, she has initiated, organized and led several health fair programmes that were organized by different social, religious and ethnic groups along with the City of Houston, Harris County, and M.D. Andersen hospitals. The aims of these initiatives were to provide basic health care services for the underinsured. These services included screening for high blood pressure, glucose, breast and prostate cancer, hearing and vision.

A few years back, Dr Adeyinka was part of the team that initiated and facilitated a meeting with doctors, nurses, phlebotomists and other young professional volunteers to discuss the possibility of providing more frequent medical services to the uninsured Houstonians. This effort eventually led to the establishment of the Mumineen/Shifah Clinic in 2018. This feat, Dr Adeyinka considers one of his outstanding community and professional accomplishments.

As Dr Fowler rightly said in his recommendation for her promotion to associate professor: Dr Adeyinka “has demonstrated excellence as a clinician and as an educator. She has been a role-model administrator and has provided enormous service”.

At this point, it is only right to roll up the drums in celebration and give it up for a quintessential African woman, a ceiling breaker and a role model to many. It is actually a dual-pronged celebration: It’s Dr Adeyinka’s birthday. While she celebrates her latest promotion as an Associate Professor, it’s only appropriate to remind her that her life has towered high as an inspiration for the girl child and the black girl and all who love success.

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