One day, when Dale Okorodudu, MD ’10, was an undergraduate student at the University of Missouri, he stopped by the office of Ellis Ingram, MD. A fixture at the MU School of Medicine for four decades as an associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, Ingram took a particular interest in encouraging black students to become doctors.
“He took me on a whole tour of the med school,” Okorodudu recalled. “At the very end of the tour, he took me to the dean’s office. Dr. Ingram said, ‘This is Dale Okorodudu, and he’s going to be a med student one day.’ That pretty much sealed the deal for me.”
Okorodudu was one of two black men in his entering class of 96 medical students. While his peers always made him feel welcome — he was the president of his M1 class — Okorodudu saw the value in making medical schools more diverse. He volunteered with Ingram’s CALEB Science Club, a program that uses pre-med students, medical students and doctors to mentor kids.
Okorodudu now is an assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and practices pulmonary medicine at the Dallas VA Medical Center. Encouraging young black students to follow his lead has become a second job.
Growing up near Houston, Okorodudu dreamed of playing professional basketball. When he topped out at 5-foot-9, he realized the NBA wasn’t his destiny. He said society teaches black youths to see sports or music as the only paths to success.
To change minds, he started Black Men in White Coats, an organization that holds youth summits and creates documentary videos and podcasts that expose kids to doctors and medical students who look like them. He’s written three books: “How to Raise a Doctor: Wisdom from Parents Who Did It,” “Pre Med Mondays: 52 Letters of Mentorship to a Future Doctor” and “Doc 2 Doc: Tony and Jace Learn About the Heart.” The latter is the first book in his children’s series.
Okorodudu returned to Columbia for Physicians Alumni Weekend in October and, appropriately enough, delivered the Ellis Ingram Diversity Lecture Series presentation to fellow graduates of the MU School of Medicine.
“The biggest thing is mentorship,” Okorodudu said. “We have to realize if we just mentor one of these young people, we could change a life. And we shouldn’t get into this thing where we think only black men can mentor black men. That’s not true. Anybody can mentor anybody. Some of my greatest mentors at Mizzou were David Fleming and Robert Churchill. These people were phenomenal mentors, and they weren’t black men.”