“You will be a doctor” was the career advice Adaora Uzodi, MD, received from her father while growing up in Nigeria.
“Many Nigerians will tell you that our parents pretty much told us we had to choose one of three careers: medicine, law or engineering,” Dr. Uzodi says. “My parents were no different. My father began the hardwiring early on. It worked, and I’m one of the fortunate ones who don’t resent their parents because I made the right choice.”
Now a pediatric infectious disease specialist, Dr. Uzodi serves as medical director of antimicrobial stewardship at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge.
In addition to providing infectious disease consultations, Dr. Uzodi leads our children’s hospital’s antimicrobial stewardship program focused on policies and strategies to optimize our antibiotic use in accordance with national standards and evidence. She also educates students and trainees and has served in our ministry for seven years so far.
Childhood Illness to Medical Career
When Dr. Uzodi was 12 she was diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever and was cared for in Nigeria by a physician who had trained in the U.S.
“No one knew what I had after weeks of fever, but she swooped in and literally saved my life,” Dr. Uzodi remembers. “I wanted to be her.”
Other Career Influences
Dr. Uzodi’s medical career was influenced most heavily by the infectious disease faculty at Mayo Clinic Children’s Hospital where she did her fellowship training.
“I was set up to succeed in every way by the tremendous amount of training resources that were available to us, the high standards for professional and ethical conduct, and the value placed on merit regardless of one’s background,” Dr. Uzodi says. In particular, Dr. Thomas Boyce at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center stands out for Dr. Uzodi when she reflects on her career path.
“Dr. Boyce is one of the most knowledgeable physicians I have met. He is a gifted teacher who made infectious disease much less intimidating and fun,” she says. “At a time when diversity and equity were not the focus of many training programs, he recognized and adapted to my unique learning needs and gave me the extra social support needed to make my fellowship training the most memorable time of my career.”
Reflecting on Black History Month
“It is our time to feel heard, seen and celebrated,” Dr. Uzodi says. “It is an important time for our children to learn our history, discover new role models, and grow their pride and self-esteem regarding who they are and what they can accomplish.”
Many leaders in Black American history come to mind for Dr. Uzodi, and she draws a lot of inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Barack Obama.
A quote from Dr. King that speaks to her deeply: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Dr. Uzodi says it’s baffling that this seemingly “basic” aspiration remains a dream for many in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Foundations of Black Excellence
“As a Nigerian immigrant, I would not be here today without the fights, struggles and marches of all African Americans, leaders and otherwise,” she says. “Black immigrants have opportunities and protections today because of the foundations laid by our African-American brothers and sisters. Many of us are fully mindful and appreciative of this and continue to educate and position ourselves to pass the torch.”
Dr. Uzodi is happily married to an African-American man from New Orleans. “My husband, Scott, has played a huge role in deepening my understanding of racism, diversity and the struggles of Black Americans, and I, his,” she says. “Because although Black people everywhere experience racism and inequity, being a Black African adds a different layer of experiences and perspective.”
Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset
This year in recognition of Black History Month, our health system is reflecting on The King Center’s 2023 theme to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and life: It Starts with Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset.
Dr. Uzodi builds beloved community in part through staying connected with her heritage.
“I am connected to my Nigerian community here in Baton Rouge and beyond,” she says. “Social media has made it so much easier to socialize. We have vibrant groups on every platform now, as far back as my elementary school classmates. We commonly have social events organized for Independence Day celebrations, culture awareness, missions, travel tours, weddings and more.”
Our DEI Commitment
Our ministry’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion supports culturally competent care education for our team members all year long, including during Black History Month each February.