Featured Clinician: Ije Akunyili, MD, MPA, FACEP

Posted on Mon, Feb 06, 2017

The heart and soul of our practice are our clinicians. Meet Ije Akunyili, MD, MPA, FACEP, associate medical director at St Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Conn.

Years with EmCare: 1 year.

Years practicing medicine: 7 years.
Dr. Ije Akunyili
Why did you decide to become a doctor? Why did you choose your specialty? Medicine is a second career for me. I started off working in economic policy and development for the World Bank. I became a doctor because I felt like I couldn't change the trajectory of world poverty but I could help one patient at a time. I walked into the emergency department my first week in medical school and never looked back.

What career did you want to pursue when you were younger?  I wanted to be President or a Nobel Laureate.

Describe one of your greatest professional accomplishments. My greatest professional accomplishments in medicine have been leading high-functioning teams to transform emergency departments and provide world-class care.

What is in the pockets of your lab coat? My iPhone. It has every medical app you can imagine. I even have an entire copy of Netter’s Anatomy on my phone. 

What would be your ideal category on “Jeopardy”? Before and After.

How do you stay organized at work? I am constantly “running my mental list” – who needs disposition, who is in imminent danger or deterioration, who needs more attention. By placing patients in well-defined lists, I am highly efficient. 

What are your tips for “leaving work at work” and not getting burned out professionally? Schedule your life outside of work the same way you would your life at work. Make your family and hobbies a priority. Allow yourself one unscheduled day every 3 months.

How are you Making Healthcare Work Better®? I continue to push the envelope for excellence in emergency care. I strive to reduce disparities in healthcare and practice evidence-based and cost-efficient medicine.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about work or life? The best advice I ever got about life was from my mum, who always reminded me to always work three times as hard, and that the world would never be fair.
What do you enjoy outside of work? I am an avid reader, and like every working parent, I spend time with my kids at home and sporting events. I also love to travel and strength train.

What’s your favorite inspirational quote? "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure" by Mariannne Williamson.

What qualities make a successful doctor? I am not only passionate about the science of the human body and disease processes but also about taking care of patients. I love the variety of the human existence I see everyday in the ED.

How would your co-workers describe you? Driven, passionate, intense, hardworking, emotionally connected with patients. Gets things done.

Tell us something that most people at work don't know about you. I once competed in an amateur bodybuilding competition. I didn't win, but it was so much grit, fun and determination.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or historical, who would you choose and why? My mum, who died two years ago. I would give up everything in the world to have one last dinner with her.  
What’s the most interesting place that you’ve been? Cape Town, South Africa. I lived in South Africa as an undergraduate around the fall of apartheid. I fell in love with Cape Town, the landscape, the melancholy beauty that defies words.

What are you currently reading? I'm reading Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy.” It's a memoir from one of the leading public defenders in our country chronicling the grave human cry for mercy that is our criminal justice system. I'm also concurrently reading a book on ED flow and lean theory.

What’s your favorite TV show? I watch exactly 1 hour of TV every week. No more, no less. And that one hour has to be the show Scandal! When its off season I don’t watch any TV. 

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of? I am most proud of my two beautiful children. They are my lasting legacy to the world.

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