One-on-One with Olusegun Oyedele

Dr. Olusegun Oyedele

More than a decade ago, after relocating from his hometown in Nigeria to South Africa to pursue his academic goals, Dr. Olusegun (Segun) Oyedele moved with his family across continents to join UBC’s newly-established Southern Medical Program (SMP) in Kelowna.

Since that time, Dr. Oyedele, an Associate Professor of Teaching in the Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences, has inspired countless medical students as the lead anatomy instructor for the SMP and has been recognized with the Killam Teaching Prize — UBC’s highest teaching honour.

Recently appointed as the new Assistant Dean, SMP, Dr. Oyedele shares his goals and aspirations, reflects on his earliest memory of Kelowna and reveals his secret talent.

Who inspires you and why?

A lot of my inspiration comes from my family, friends and colleagues — those who go above and beyond, and demonstrate extraordinary courage and resilience at overcoming whatever life throws at them. Their indomitable spirit inspires me.

My wonderful parents, who went without luxury for many years in order to raise their four children, are also a special source of inspiration for me.

For you, what makes UBC different?

For me, UBC is special because we are constantly trying to do right by our people — be they students, staff or faculty. There is a serious, sustained and renewed effort to strive for fairness, and to treat everyone with dignity, regardless of identifying demographics or background.

What is your earliest memory of arriving at the SMP in Kelowna?

I flew to Kelowna from Johannesburg for my interview with the SMP in February, in the height of winter. I had no idea how cold it could get — I had only brought one flannel! The Regional Associate Dean at the time took one look at me and promptly had a colleague take me to the mall so I could get a proper winter jacket. That was my introduction to Canada.

Coming to the Interior twelve years ago was also a cultural shock; everything was different. But my colleagues here at the SMP went over and beyond to make me and my family feel welcome, for which I am tremendously grateful.

Since joining the SMP in 2011, what changes have you seen, and what excites you about the future of the program?

Since I first joined, the SMP has expanded tremendously. And, as the program grows, I’m excited to see increased diversity in the incoming classes.

I’m now seeing some of my former students coming back to teach as well. To me, that is like icing on the cake. What makes their return particularly wonderful is that they can really relate to the new class — they’ve been in the same seats that the students sit in. You can’t quantify that, in terms of that inspiration.

What are your main goals as the new Assistant Dean of the SMP?

As Assistant Dean of the SMP, I look forward to continuing to support and mentor the next generation of doctors, while enhancing medical education and training opportunities across the Interior. I’ll continue to champion the program, as well as the community of Kelowna that has become my home. In my new role, I also hope to continue my work and passion for increasing equity, diversity and inclusion.

Tell us more about your work championing equity, diversity and inclusion. Why is this work important to you?

Efforts aimed at increasing equity, diversity and inclusion within UBC are important to me because of my lived experience as a Black man who lives in a world run along predominantly Western cultural values. The work that I have done as part of the Respect, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) committee in the Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences seeks to highlight the ways in which unconscious bias, prejudice, inequity and lack of diversity affect the life and wellbeing, as well as the productivity of our UBC family, and how we can begin to understand and redress its harmful impact.

This work is also important for our students and communities as a whole. Kelowna and the surrounding area have expanded, and there’s a lot more diversity now. For me, it’s so important that the student body represents that community. And for patients, when their doctor, or the trainee taking care of them looks like them, it can make a big difference — they’re able to relate freely.

Do you have any secret talents?

I am actually very musical. I have a good singing voice (and sing in my church band). I also play the harmonica.

Kirk Franklin is one of my favourite musicians. My kids grew up listening to his music because I play it non-stop in the car when dropping them off at school. And Diana Ross — her duet “Endless Love” with Lionel Richie. That dates me, I’m sure. And of course, Whitney Houston, I mean, who does not love Whitney?

Where is your favourite spot in B.C.?

Although I have had the great privilege of travelling around B.C. and have amazing memories of really beautiful spots across the province, Kelowna will always be my favourite place.

It has a wonderful blend of city and countryside, of the wisdom of age, the energy of youth and the hope of renewal. Kelowna has become more demographically diverse over the years and the restaurants (and wineries) rival those found anywhere else in the world, in my opinion.

Its beauty is something that I try never to take for granted.

This is why the recent wildfires that devastated parts of West Kelowna and Kelowna have affected the community deeply, myself included. Kelowna is resilient, though, and residents have rallied in support of affected members. As we speak, the situation has begun to improve, and we owe the first responders and firefighters a huge debt of gratitude. The outpouring of love and support from the community reminds me of how grateful I am that Kelowna is home. It was my first love and my place of arrival to Canada. It remains for me, my favourite spot.

Published: August 2023