Many people have important childhood experiences that steer them towards their life’s work. Few, however, can point to an event as significant as testifying before the United Nations at 11 years old. That experience motivated Olufunso Odunukan, MD, MPH, FACC, FSCAI – an interventional cardiologist who recently joined Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Group (YRMG) – to pursue a career in medicine.
“At the time, there was a big famine in Ethiopia,” says Dr. Odunukan, who was born and raised in the African country of Nigeria, approximately 2,000 miles west of Ethiopia. “That early exposure to advocacy and children’s health issues inspired me. I resolved to become a pediatrician. I did become a doctor, but as life would have it, I became intrigued by other subjects, one of them being cardiology.”
The Interventional Cardiology Revolution
Dr. Odunukan’s passion for cardiology was sparked during an internal medicine internship at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester, Minnesota. There, he grew to appreciate how important the heart is to organs throughout the body. Inspired by this, Dr. Odunukan took his education to another level during two interventional cardiology fellowships at the prestigious Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California.
Dr. Odunukan’s medical education coincided with groundbreaking advancements that expanded non-surgical – or minimally invasive – treatment options for people with valvular heart disease, such as aortic stenosis, mitral valve regurgitation and more. These interventional cardiology procedures reduce the need for open heart surgeries, shorten hospital stays and return people to their lives quickly.
“Basically, we’ve found ways to close holes and repair tight or leaky heart valves without even opening the heart,” says Dr. Odunukan. “This has given the frail elderly – many who are not strong enough for open heart surgery – a second chance at life. And that is so inspiring to me.”
A Well-Rounded Education
Dr. Odunukan’s avid curiosity has motivated him to seek new experiences throughout his medical education. He participated in two global health exchange programs: one in Finland and another in the Philippines.
During his fellowships, Dr. Odunukan became intrigued with how interventional cardiology was practiced in areas with few resources. This led him to spend a month working – and learning – in the Cath Lab of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the leading healthcare institution in New Delhi, India.
“In the U.S.,” Dr. Odunukan says, “I’ve lived in ten states in 15 years.”
Many of these moves were related to Dr. Odunukan’s interventional cardiology training. However, he also pursued opportunities to practice cardiology in rural South Dakota, Georgia and West Virginia.
For the Sake of Patients
Dr. Odunukan’s experiences have made him an expert at caring for patients across the cardiology spectrum.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to save someone’s life by removing a blood clot that’s blocking their heart and then to place a stent that will keep their blood flowing,” he says. “There’s also great joy in helping someone manage their risk factors – like hypertension and diabetes – to optimize their quality of life.”
Embracing a New Community
As you would expect of someone who has thrived in a variety of locations, Dr. Odunukan has wasted no time getting involved in his new community. He’s hiked the Tonto Rim Trail in the Grand Canyon with a group from Yavapai College and joined the Bike Prescott group.
“The Quad Cities area is known for its excellent climate and outdoor activities,” Dr. Odunukan says. “There are lots of opportunities for a good work-life balance.”
How to Reach Dr. Odunukan
Dr. Odunukan is located on the campus of Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) West in the new Outpatient Services Building West at 1001 Willow Creek Road, Suite 2200, in Prescott. To schedule an appointment with him, call YRMG Cardiology at (928) 445-6025.
For more information about Dignity Health, YRMG, visit DignityHealth.org/YRMG.