As the world continues to grapple with the global health pandemic of COVID-19, it is fitting to recognise some of the healthcare workers at the frontline (first responders) in the emergency response against what is probably the greatest public health crisis of our generation.
One of such medical heroes working at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the US (New York) is Dr Olakunle Akinboboye, a professor of cardiology at Cornell University and medical director of Laurelton Heart Specialist Hospital (Queens Heart Institute), and Strong Health Medical Centre, Rosedale, New York, USA.
Akinboboye is one of the top experts in nuclear cardiology in the state of New York. With almost four decades’ experience in cardiac imaging, clinical hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes and sleep medicine, he is one of best hands available to COVID-19 patients with underlying health conditions like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which makes them have the highest risk of death.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) constituted the most predominant public health concern in the western world. CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other heart conditions. They were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 17.9 million people each year, making them the leading cause of death globally.
In 2017, Akinboboye made history when he became the first black medical doctor to chair the Cardiovascular Disease Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). As the head of the 12-member board he is responsible for the periodic knowledge assessment and certifying all practising cardiologists in the US.
Prior to this appointment, Akinboboye served as chair of the clinical trials committee of the organisation. He also served on the International Board of governors of the American College of Cardiology, as the liaison officer for Africa.
Background and education
Born in 1961, Akinboboye is a native of Ondo State, Nigeria. He was influenced early in life to be a medical doctor by doctors in his family – particularly his uncle, who was a gynaecologist; and his elder brother who is a physician.
Akinboboye studied Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he received his medical degree (MBBS) in 1984. He later moved to the US where he finished his internal medicine residency and part of his cardiology fellowship at the Nassau County Medical Centre, State University of New York, at Stony Brook.
He went on to Columbia University and completed another fellowship with a dedicated two-year training in nuclear cardiology and advanced echocardiolography. He became an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York.
Akinboboye has the unique distinction of earning, in addition to his degrees in Medicine, an MBA from Columbia University and also a Master’s degree in Public Health from the same school. He has, to his credit, over 100 scientific publications in the fields of hypertension, diabetes and heart imaging.
Professional medical association
Akinboboye has served on the International Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology from 1997 to 2000. He became the 14th national president of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) which was established in 1974 to focus on the adverse impact of cardiovascular disease on African Americans. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.
His other memberships include: American Heart Association, International Society of Hypertension in Blacks, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, Society of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, Association of Black Cardiologists, Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology.
Awards and recognitions
Akinboboye is a recipient of many awards and recognitions. In 2004 and 2005, he served as an invited expert on interpretation of challenging cases in nuclear cardiology at the annual scientific meeting of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.
From 2006 to 2014, he was consistently selected by Castle Connolly, a leading yearly publication of distinguished US doctors in New York, Chicago and Florida regions, in its prestigious Top Doctors Award: New York Metro Area. He was also selected by the Network Journal as one of the best black doctors in the New York State and cities around New York in February 2005.
Akinboboye was also cited as one of the best cardiology specialists by another New York magazine in 2006, 2007, and 2008. He received an award from the Association of Black Cardiologists for his dedicated service as a board member from 1999 to 2005. He also received an award for “exemplary professional services and outstanding contributions to cardiovascular medicine” while serving as president of the Ibadan College of Medicine Alumni Association, North America, from 2004 to 2005.
Akinboboye is passionate about training and mentoring young physicians and cardiologists. He received a humanitarian award from the College of Medicine at University of Ibadan in Nigeria in 2005 for his ongoing efforts to spread expertise in the techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in Nigeria.
He has trained several generations of fellows in cardiology at New York Presbyterian Medical Centre, State University of New York at Stony Brook, and New York Hospital Queens.
Akinboboye has received grants from the US government through the National Institute of Health, and also from the American Heart Association, in recognition of his outstanding expertise and skills as a medical researcher and physician.