May 17, 2002
Volume XXXV, No. 20




My mom, the M.D.

2002 graduate has taken unconventional route to her medical career

PHOTO Angela Akonye, graduating medical student (with glasses), is pictured with her family members. They are (L-R) daughter Nicole, 8; daughter Olivia, 2; son Paul Jr., 10; husband Paul; daughter Victoria, 4; son Bentley, 9; and her mother, Lucy Obioma. Akonye was the first student to go directly from St. Philip's College in San Antonio to the School of Medicine. She will graduate in the top half of the Class of 2002.

Someday, when Paul Jr., Bentley, Nicole, Olivia and Victoria Akonye are adults, they may remember the nights their mom spent with her head in medical books, learning the many things necessary to become a doctor. To them, she is my mom, the M.D.

Angela Akonye, devoted mother of five, will receive her M.D. degree from the School of Medicine on May 25. It is one of those things that you don't know the magnitude of, said her husband, Paul, a U.S. Army nurse. I am happy she is going into this career, added her mother, Lucy Obioma.

Angela is not the typical medical student. She grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where she worked in her family's store as a child. She married at age 18 and immigrated to the United States. Seeing children die without care in Nigeria inspired her to seek a career in the medical field. In 1994, raising young children, she entered St. Philip's College in San Antonio to take medical prerequisite courses. She entered the School of Medicine in July 1998.

"It has been my father's dream for one of his children to become a doctor," Angela said. "He is in Nigeria and will be getting a visa to come for my graduation." Angela starts her obstetrics and gynecology residency at the Health Science Center this summer, and hopes to return to Africa on annual medical mission trips.

The Akonye children range in age from 2 years to 10 years. "I was eight months pregnant when I did my Medical School interview," Angela said. "Then we had another child in my second year of school. Thankfully, I have a lot of family support." Her mother-in-law came to San Antonio the first year and a half the Akonyes were here, and her mom has been a live-in nanny since October 1999.

Lucy Obioma is very thankful her daughter chose medicine, especially the practice of obstetrics and gynecology. "I buried four children of my own," she said in a Nigerian dialect, "and those are things not done happily." Many children in Nigeria have little or no access to care and die of preventable diseases, Angela said.

The couple looks forward to medical mission trips. They are trying to build a hospital in Nigeria and housing for families of the sick. "Our goal is to open people's eyes," the new obstetrician said.

"Angela is an ordinary person who is doing an extraordinary thing," her husband said.