Mayo Clinic Alumni Association – Know Your Board – Olufunso Odunukan, M.B.B.S.
Provides leadership | Makes policy decisions | Decides strategic direction and vision
Olufunso Odunukan, M.B.B.S. (I ’12, CV ’16)
Heart Center of Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Fellowship: Health care management, Harvard University Health System, Cambridge, Massachusetts; cardiovascular diseases, Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education, Jacksonville, Florida; interventional cardiology, Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California
Residency: Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education, Rochester, Minnesota
Graduate: Master of Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
Medical school: University of Ibadan College of Medicine
Native of: Lagos, Nigeria
I was a child actor in Nigeria and was invited to speak at the Children of Africa concert from where I was selected to represent African children at the United Nations in 1992. On the TV game show I appeared on for four years, the children got to meet with different government ministers and ask questions about politics. During the second half of the show, we got to pretend that we were those government ministers. For example, if you were the minister of health, what would you do? We got to imagine the world as we wanted to see it. Getting exposure to advocacy and children’s health led to my interest in medicine.
Why Mayo Clinic
I’m from Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. Low-income countries such as Nigeria would do well to invest in health promotion and preventive health to keep the population healthy instead of curing people one at a time after illness develops. My true passion is public health, particularly as it applies to global health.
After medical school in Nigeria, I pursued a Master of Public Health degree at Harvard School of Public Health. I was drawn to Mayo Clinic for residency by the story of the Mayo brothers. The more I learned about the story, the more enamored I became. I found it very motivating that in the middle of rural Minnesota, a structure was built that is the beacon of light in medicine. I look at that story and say, “If you have a dream and are dedicated to it and focused on quality, people will come from all over the world.” There is an international airport in Rochester, with patients coming from other countries. Mayo also has one of the most diverse staffs and training programs you will find in the world, and the institution is stronger for it. Mayo is one of few programs in the U.S. with a well-developed global health program that allows trainees to spend a month anywhere in the world. During my training at Mayo, I spent time in India and the Philippines.
I became interested in cardiology during my internal medicine training at Mayo Clinic, and that attraction stems from my interest in public health as hypertension is the No. 1 risk factor for cardiovascular disease around the world.
I want to fulfill my potential and do as many things as I have been trained to do. My goal within the next decade is to establish a comprehensive cardiovascular care practice in Nigeria. Because sudden cardiac arrest in Nigeria is almost always fatal due to the severe lack of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), I am working to place AEDs in public places in the country and increase knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the country with the largest population in Africa. With the hope of building a sustainable cardiac care center, I am engaging my colleagues in the diaspora to go back and build a cardiovascular workforce. I am also working to promote local research in cardiovascular medicine while creating a network of health care professionals around the world with opportunities for everyone to help. I go back to Nigeria for two weeks every year to do pro bono interventional cardiology care. While there, I and other likeminded colleagues conduct a national cardiovascular symposium with live case demonstrations to build the capacity of our local colleagues. This year, we conducted a virtual symposium because of the constraints of the pandemic, but this allowed us to expand our reach. With fewer than 10 interventional cardiologists in the entire country, many patients with acute heart attacks die even before getting to a hospital. These mortalities are absolutely unacceptable.
Mayo Clinic has given me a lot, and I believe in giving back. It’s important to bring difference faces, voices and experiences to the table. Strength in diversity of opinions makes us strong. I have a lot to offer to the Alumni Association to help make sure multiple experiences are represented at the table.
I am an avid ballroom dancer. I danced competitively for Harvard and won several competitions. I kept it up at Mayo Clinic. I introduced ballroom dance classes for residents and fellows as part of the Mayo Fellows’ Association wellness program. I also enjoy horseback riding.
I was a child actor in Nigeria for four years, and I could not go anywhere in the country without being recognized. It was embarrassing to still be recognized deep into medical school.
Also, I do not seem to age. I still look like I am 22. When I was training at Mayo Clinic, patients called me Doogie Howser.