By Terrica Hendrix
Howard Memorial Hospital’s newest physician, Dr. Ngozi A. Wilkins, is “Every Woman.” She is a wife, mother and a physician.
Dr. Wilkins recently opened her family medicine clinic on HMH’s medical campus.
She was raised in Nigeria, West Africa, on the campus of the University of Ibadan, “one of the oldest and most prestigious Nigerian universities, where my father was a Professor of Psychology,” she said. “I grew up in an international household. My dad is Nigerian. My mom, a teacher and entrepreneur, who owned a bakery and a French restaurant, was from Michigan.”
Wilkins’ maternal grandparents are originally from Arkansas. She was reared with two younger sisters and one brother. “I grew up knowing that education was not an option; it was a necessity. My parents always exposed us to the languages, arts and music; and we often visited various universities across the United States.”
Wilkins said that her love for the sciences – especially biology – at an early age is what sparked her interest to go into the medical field. “I figured medicine would be a good field as it would keep me challenged intellectually and would be a career where I could offer assistance to others. Growing up in Nigeria, health disparities were often apparent. Out of pocket costs for health care were cost prohibitive for some, and to receive care, payment was needed. Those who could not afford medical services were not able to get treated and would have to raise funds to pay for care. I also experienced the loss of a cousin to typhoid fever and another to malaria [both preventable diseases] and my grandmother passed away from complications of diabetes. These experiences propelled my passion and interest for the field,” she explained.
Wilkins said that being a family physician has taught her compassion, humility and patience. “I love serving others in their time of need. I enjoy educating patients about their various illnesses, encourage them in their quest for health and supporting them in what might be times of great stress and need.”
In January 2007, Wilkins and her family moved from Washington state (where she had established a career in the biotechnology and blood banking industries and with a Health Maintenance Organization) to Arkansas.
While in Arkansas, Wilkins has worked at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock “doing scientific research for two years and then [I] applied to medical school. Once in medical school, I became interested in population health and decided to pursue a degree in Public Health. I graduated from UAMS in 2013 with degrees in Medicine and Public Health and then completed an additional three years of Family Medicine residency at UAMS Southwest in Texarkana. We then relocated to Nashville, where I now practice,” she said.
Wilkins said that she enjoys the fact that Nashville is “a quaint, historical city with scenic rolling hills, friendly people and a beautiful hospital. It is definitely the epitome of ‘small town America,’ which we love. We also enjoy the football games. ‘Go Scrappers,’” she added.
Some of the hardships she had to overcome during her career pursuit included “… having to leave an established career in the Pacific Northwest to return to school as an older student, with a husband and two children had its challenges. I had to re-learn how to study large volumes of material in short periods of time and how to take a multitude of tests. My husband and I had to make a lot of sacrifices to get to this point but we always kept our eyes on the prize. My children have learned that with a goal in mind, hard work, determination and perseverance, all things are possible. Additionally, my mother passed away very unexpectedly and suddenly after a scheduled operation, prior to my third year of residency. She was a woman of very strong faith, and one of my avid supporters during this whole journey. It has certainly been very difficult since her passing but I know she would have been so proud to see me and my family succeed at this lifelong goal.”
Wilkins explained that she has been able to balance the demands of a growing practice with the demands of being a wife and mother to two children. “Attending four years of medical school, followed by three years of Family Medicine residency prepared me to balance my time between going to class, studying, working in the hospital and clinic (during residency) and running a household. Having a flexible husband has definitely been very helpful. Apart from weekends where I have been on call, I am able to spend most weekends participating in family activities.”
Wilkins said that one of the greatest feats of being a physician is having the ability to make a positive impact on a patient’s life by impacting their health outcomes directly and being able to comfort them in times of uncertainty. “The road to this point has not been easy, but being able to serve as a role model for young, minority physicians is also very important to me and I spend time coaching and counseling medical students and residents through the process of attaining this goal.”
When she’s not in the office, she loves to spend time with her family. “We like to travel and discover new places. We are also ‘foodies’ and like to visit new restaurants to try new foods. I also like to swim, bake (caramel pound cake is my specialty), read and catch up on a good non-fiction movie.”
Dr. Wilkins’ family medicine practice is located at 110 Medical Circle on HMH’s campus in Nashville. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Wilkins, call 870-845-8010.