2021 40 Under 40 Honoree: Dr. Utibe Essien
“I think more attention has been paid to some of those disparities because of the pandemic, and I think it’ll really benefit our community as we pay more attention to it.”
University of Pittsburgh Assistant Professor of Medicine Dr. Utibe Essien can directly link his life’s work to his parents’ experiences.
When he was born in 1985, his mother was an uninsured recent Nigerian immigrant living in a friend’s apartment. She went into preterm labor at 32 weeks with dangerously high blood pressure.
His father, also a Nigerian immigrant, had to redo his residency training in the United States even though he was already a practicing physician in Africa’s most populous country.
Essien, who also works as a health disparities researcher in the VA Pittsburgh Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, often thinks about how issues including those faced by your parents, such as housing, food insecurity and pollution, affect your patients.
He published one of the first articles reporting racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths after the pandemic started; it showed Black patients were dying at the rate of three times that of white patients and Hispanic patients were dying at two times that of white patients.
“I think more attention has been paid to some of those disparities because of the pandemic, and I think it’ll really benefit our community as we pay more attention to it,” he says.