Chisom Ikeji, who grew up in Watson Lake and then Whitehorse, was named by MedStar Health/Georgetown University as the Resident of the Year in May, an award given annually to one physician resident at the end of their final year of the program. (Submitted)

Former Yukoner makes her mark on the medical world

Chisom Ikeji awarded for residency work, continues career with Yale fellowship

A former Yukoner is making her mark on the medical world.

Chisom Ikeji, who grew up in Watson Lake and then Whitehorse, was recognized in May for her residency work at MedStar Health through Georgetown University in Baltimore.

Now working on a Yale fellowship in geriatrics, the former Yukoner was named the Resident of the Year, an award given annually to one physician resident at the end of their final year of the program who “embodies a great spirit of altruism, leadership, dedication to community and clinical promise”.

She was also awarded the American College of Physicians Chief Residents Association of Baltimore Profiles in Excellence Award which goes to residents who have “gone the extra mile and provided outstanding service to their medical community.”

Finally, Ikeji and the research team she led was awarded third place at the Georgetown Research Symposium for a study entitled Patient and Provider Perspectives on Proton Pump Inhibitors in Older Adults, a study that looked at medication for stomach ulcers.

In an Aug. 6 interview, Ikeji said she’s honoured to receive the recognition as a testament to the work she’s put in to her residency.

With a goal of eventually pursuing a leadership position in her field, perhaps as a member of the Canadian Medical Council or as part of the legal side of medicine, Ikeji said the honours have helped confirm her career direction.

Ikeji’s career in medicine goes back to her early days waiting for her mom — local doctor Ngozi Ikeji — to be finish up her work day at Whitehorse General Hospital.

“It helps that my mom’s a doctor,” Chisom Ikeji said.

At that time, she recalls a big interest in her mother’s workday and what was happening around her at the hospital while she waited. At school, science was always a favourite subject.

Medicine seemed like a natural fit, at least to Ikeji’s mom and her mom’s friends, many who advised her to pursue that career path and, more specifically, focus on geriatrics.

She’s been grateful for her mom’s continued encouragement as she pursued her bachelor’s degree, and then moved on to medical school before her residency and now onto Yale.

“She kept pushing me,” Ikeji said, going on to explain her interest in geriatric care.

“The physical changes as you age are so interesting. You have to take a totally different approach.”

As Ikeji stated on the alumni site for the Medical University for the Americas where she earned her medical doctorate:

“Geriatric medicine is about dealing with complex medical problems and addressing the patient as a whole, it is really more like an art.

“It can be challenging, yet also very rewarding, when you make significant improvements to a patient’s life. It is a field of medicine that keeps you young.

“Yale has one of the top geriatric programs in the country, so I was so happy to get a Fellowship in Geriatrics at Yale”

Before earning her doctorate at the Medical University of the Americas (MUA) in Nevis and St. Kitts in the Caribbean, Ikeji earned her Bachelor of Science, majoring in biological science with a minor in nutrition and food science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

During her time at MUA, she did a number of clinical rotations at a variety of medical facilities in the U.S. and Canada before being matched to her residency in internal medicine in Baltimore, where her interest in the field of geriatric medicine grew.

As she explained, her doctorate program tended to stream its residents into the U.S. system and that’s how she ended up there.

Next she’s working on a fellowship through Yale New Haven in Connecticut to continue focusing on geriatrics, she will based there for some time.

While Yale provides, on its website, a three-year sample schedule for fellows working in geriatrics, it also noted there’s considerable flexibility with the actual scheduling which can vary for each fellow.

The work includes rotations working in acute and in-patient care, and clinics as well as geriatric psychology and more. Further into the program, there’s extensive research work that takes those doing a fellowship from formulating the question and hypothesis they plan to research on to collecting data, doing the research and preparing their manuscript. There’s also work in grant writing.

“I really want to do more research in geriatrics,” Ikeji said, adding she would also like to work with the critically ill and could see herself involved in education, pursuing leadership opportunities.

“I’m open to a lot,” she said.

As for whether that would mean remaining in the United States or making her way back to Canada, she said as with other aspects of her career she’s open to all opportunities

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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