Dr. Oyedele Adeyi
Dr. Oyedele Adeyi always wanted to be a doctor. It just took him a while to realize how much hard work and studying was involved. (Photo: UHN)

Dr. Oyedele Adeyi, keynote speaker at last year's UHN Black History Month celebrations, is an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Toronto and has been a staff physician in UHN's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology for 11 years. He specializes in liver and transplantation pathology, with a focus on transplant immunology and recurrent infections post-transplant.

Dr. Adeyi was recently awarded for his meritorious service as the Chairman of Education Committee of the Hans Popper Hepatopathology Society (2013-2016) and has been appointed as a member of the Surgical Pathology Committee of the College of American Pathologists. He has 78 research publications and 1,057 citations.

He spoke about his path to becoming a specialist in transplantation pathology.

Question: Dr. Adeyi, what exactly do you do?

Dr. Adeyi: As an anatomic pathologist sub-specialized in liver and transplantation pathology, I receive and examine liver biopsies and resections from patients with liver diseases in whom a tissue diagnosis has been deemed necessary to treatment and other clinical management. I have to first understand the clinical, radiologic, biochemical, and other data behind each of my patient's presentation and use this information to explain the ongoing pathologic process and answer these questions, ultimately providing important information to guide treatment, determine extent of damage by a particular disease process, directly or indirectly inform on prognosis/likely outcome, and in cases of tumor resections, determine adequacy of resections.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up?

A: I always wanted to be a doctor, since the age of 7, but didn't realize that meant hard work and lots of studies. Later in high school, there was this physics/math teacher, whose name I can't even remember, who snapped me out of an attitude of laziness. He probably didn't realize it but that single interaction changed my outlook and my grades (in math especially). Without that discussion with him, I probably would never have made it to medical school despite dreaming of being a doctor for as long as I could remember.

Q:Apart from that teacher, who else has influenced who you are, your values and your career path?

A: I have had many excellent teachers but, Dr. Jake Demetris of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, stands out as one person who has influenced and continues to influence my career. As a post-residency fellow in Pittsburgh, Dr. Demetris made it his duty to make me a "family doctor" in pathology. One of his favorite questions was, 'how would you approach this biopsy if the patient was your mom?' I came away realizing that if I could approach my practice like he did (and still does), I would be okay and so would my patients. I still refer to him when things get a little weird; I've been known to ask him 'how would you handle this situation if I was your nephew?'

Q: UHN is Canada's largest research institution and the home to more than 15,000 staff from diverse ethnic backgrounds. However, the proportion of those who are Black physicians is quite low, what opportunities do you think a new graduate should explore?

A: There are always opportunities, one just has to look. Probably the key one is finding a good mentor early who would not only gently push you to optimize your skills and abilities but also guide you into opportunities specific to your target towards choosing, building, and starting a career. The most important self-developed opportunity for getting into medical school occurs at the time of starting college/university. I tell high school seniors thinking of getting into medicine, once your GPA falls behind in Year 1, you are already at a disadvantage; so hit the ground running.

Pathology is the heart of medicine and we serve as consultants to other medical specialists' daily making decisions that impact the lives of patients who we have never met (and most probably will never meet). Realizing the depth of responsibility bestowed on us, we must repeatedly justify this trust with every case we handle."

Q: Our readers would like to know you on a more personal level. Can you tell us one thing about you that few people would know?

A: I'm really a mommy's boy and miss my mom terribly, (she died in 2011). Secretly, I cry sometimes because she isn't here to witness some of my successes, which she always prayed for.

Q: What do you feel you have bragging rights to?

A: Not much; most of the best things that happened to me happened in spite of me. But I should probably brag of persistently chasing the girl who is now my wife for a whole year when she couldn't even imagine dating me.

Q: Who would you say is your favorite historical hero/figure?

A: Jesus Christ.

Q: How would you like to be remembered?

A: In this order: As someone who was far from perfect but truly loved Jesus Christ nevertheless.  As a father and husband who put his family first in all things. As a friend who makes efforts to nurture his friendships. And as a pathologist and teacher who thought outside the box and made a positive impact in patients' and students' lives.

Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?

A: It reminds me of what used to be and how fortunate I am to be alive at a different era, even if many challenges still remain. It makes me appreciate and value the sacrifices of those who chose to say "NO" when NO was dangerous and far from being popular.​

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A list of Black History Month Events at UHN

I: International African Medical Innovators Exhibit of the Canadian Multicultural Inventors Museum

February 8th: 12:00-13:30 – Lobby Atrium, Toronto Western Hospital

February 14th: 12:00-13:30 – Lobby, E.W. Bickle Centre

February 23rd: 12:00-13:30 – Lobby, Lyndhurst Centre

February 27th: 12:00-13:30 – Lobby, Toronto Rehab Institute, University C​entre

II​: Closing Ceremony:

February 28th, 12:00-13:30 – Atrium 7th Floor, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

Keynote: Dr. Kwame McKenzie-Director, Canadian Association of Mental Health (CAMH)​

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