Before she began her career at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Okulaja went to medical school and graduated very early in life. One of the biggest motivators that led her into medicine was that she had very good grades in school. “In Africa if you get excellent grades you are most often destined to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or architect,” says Dr. Okulaja. “Growing up I originally wanted to be a photographer or a foreign ambassador, but since these were not one of the four acceptable choices, on a way, kind of
When she attended medical school 27 years ago she loved everything about it; learning about the body, the competitiveness, her classmates and the collegial atmosphere. “I am a do-er and a problem solver so I thought the best way to make a positive impact on people was through medicine. I came to the U.S. to further my medical studies because at that time in my life I was all about the pursuit of knowledge.”
The moment that she saw her first patient, Dr. Okulaja knew that she was destined to be a doctor. Once she said “Hello my name is Dr. Okulaja, what can I do to help?” she was hooked. She realized then and there that being a doctor incorporated all the personality traits she possessed that make a good doctor; a love for problem-solving, curiosity and compassion.
“I always say that the day you stop aspiring to do something more is the day you start dying. My passion is people; seeing them do well; live their best life; and letting them know that even if they have to deal with a medical issue I can still help them live well. That is what I live for.”
Throughout her career and even in medical school, it was always the norm that “doctors gave orders”. Dr. Okulaja believes that is why most doctors seem so autocratic. Even the things doctors need to get done in the hospital or clinic are called “orders”. In the past everything was about doing “what the doctor ordered”. What was missing from this scenario was the personal preference of the patient; Dr. Okulaja defines this as a “doc-tocracy”.
Her dreams are to provide healthcare that is quality, low-cost, intuitive and truly benefits the patients. She was not able to accomplish this while working at a big health system.
“Today we live in a different world where many people do their own research and come in with their own opinions, their own ideas on what they want to do, and I fully embrace this,” says Dr. Okulaja.
“There is a saying from Confucius that I believe in: ‘Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may not remember; involve me and I will understand.’ This is my philosophy of medical care. It brings me joy to collaborate with my patients on their care and help them get to a place of positive change where they can take control of their own health. In my practice I always spend the time necessary for every patient.”
“Over the years I have realized that every patient is different and each one has different needs,” says Dr. Okulaja. “My general inclination is to hug my patients, but I understand that some people are not at ease with this. So I strive to meet everyone in a safe zone they are comfortable with. If not a hug, a touch, if not a touch then a compassionate ear.”
“I have learned to treat my patients not as a number, but to see them as a whole person. It is my goal that every patient who leaves my office does so filled with hope and a sense of safety that their doctor is always watching out for them.”
Dr. Okulaja welcomes new patients!