Grad profile: How a brother’s ordeal inspired a pediatric path

Deji Ologbenla, Faculty of Medicine

- June 1, 2021

This article is part of a series focusing on the grads of the Dalhousie Class of 2021. Visit our Class of 2021 virtual space to share in the excitement with our newest graduates.

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Deji Ologbenla’s innate compassion was stirred by the pain he saw his younger brother suffer as the result of sickle cell anemia.

“Witnessing him deal with pain crises as a child shaped my sense of empathy for sick children, and my compassion for their families,” Deji explains. “His ordeal kindled my interest in pediatric medicine.”

Deji’s interest in working with children was reinforced by many positive experiences as a young person. “Whether I was volunteering in mentorship programs or with the children in my local church, I have always enjoyed working with kids,” he explains. “They are not just little adults, they are inquisitive, resilient, fun to be around and have so much potential to grow and learn.”

These early experiences inspired Deji to embark on the path to a career in medicine, with an eye on pediatrics.

In 2011, he moved to Canada to pursue an MSc in Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, before moving to Halifax to embark on his medical training. Now that he’s here, he doesn’t want to leave: “My family and I have fallen in love with the city and hope to make this our home long-term!”

Deji is delighted he will be able to stay in Halifax to complete his pediatric residency training with Dalhousie.

“I enjoy working in a team and using clinical reasoning to untangle and solve complex cases, and I know a career in pediatrics will avail me of these,” he says. “The program is great and the IWK is such a warm and collegial environment to work and learn in.”

For Deji, the most challenging aspect of medical school was juggling his multiple responsibilities as a student, husband, new father, son, and sibling.

“There never seemed to be enough time, as schoolwork was relentless,” he says. “I had to learn to prioritize tasks and get better at communicating with my spouse. I had to find a balance that worked for me and my family. I am still learning to gracefully say no, without feeling guilty, so I can juggle other responsibilities outside of medicine.”

The uncertainty that came with the COVID-19 crisis and the pausing of the third-year clerkship was also stressful. The Class of 2021 pulled together with such resilience to help out with the pandemic response, however, that Deji was reassured: “I learned that it is possible to make the best of difficult situations if you have friends or colleagues who are pulling together in the same direction.”

The PLANS team also provided Deji with invaluable support during his time in medical school, as well as opportunities to pay his support forward.

“I’m passionate about Black representation in medicine,” he says. “I have mentored high school kids as well as undergraduate students in the past and look forward to finding ways to advocate for more African Canadians in medicine and health care.”

As he prepares to embark on his residency, Deji is keeping an open mind about his eventual career path.

“General pediatrics offers a little bit of everything, and neonatology and hematology-oncology fascinate me,” he says. “I’m not sure if I will pursue community or academic practice yet. Having experienced my brother’s ordeal with sickle cell pain, pediatric pain research is also something I am thinking of exploring.”


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