Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Ijeoma Opara, M.D., is among the three Wayne State University community members selected by a committee of their peers to receive the latest Profiles in Warrior Strong recognition for their accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winners, including a team of WSU employees, were acknowledged and had an opportunity to speak at the June 25 Board of Governors meeting.
The School of Medicine’s Dr. Opara is associate program director of the internal medicine-pediatrics residency, and a physician with Wayne Health.
“I am honored and humbled to receive this award. I give honor to God, my ancestors, my communities of origin, belonging and practice, my family, my parents, siblings, husband and children, my residents and students, colleagues and friends, department chair and division chief and the No. 1 combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency program in the world,” Dr. Opara said.
A long-time advocate for equity in the health care industry, Dr. Opara was recognized for her tireless work during the pandemic to raise awareness about racialized medicine; create new systems of training for medical students, residents, and doctors; advocate for professional and policy changes; hold institutions accountable; create advocacy networks of Black doctors; and highlight the stories of Black patients.
“This past year has been like no other and was rife with multiple challenges, including the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national reckoning with racial injustice and a devastating economic recession. It has also been flush with opportunity to reimagine and reconstruct our health care and medical education system as just and equitable, prioritize the mental health and wellbeing of health care professionals, and build strategic collaborative cross-sectoral partnerships for greater societal impact,” she said.
She also continues to serve her patients as a physician with Wayne Health, including providing care and testing in the city’s homeless shelters.
“As a COVID-19 frontline health care professional who centers the brilliance of Black and Indigenous people in what I call Liberation Medicine, I have faced the specter of death and my own mortality during these tenuous times,” Dr. Opara said. “I also remember the countless individuals and families we have lost to the pandemic as well as to police violence and structural racism. I am encouraged to continue to work with the great people of my WSU community to further the work of equity, justice and anti-racism as we lift up WSU as a nationally-recognized trailblazer in creating the equitable and just society we all strive toward.”
Her nominator wrote, “Her endless compassion, care and enthusiasm, and her incisive critiques and insights, make her a powerful advocate who has established Wayne State as a center for this work and improved the education of everyone in our medical school. She is a perfect example of what it means to be Warrior Strong.”