Dr. Ije Akunyili: Shattering the Glass Ceiling

by Duchess Magazine

Dr. Ije Akunyili is the daughter of the deceased Nigerian Professor Dora Akunyili who served as the director of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) between 2001-2008.

She died on June 7, 2014, in a specialized cancer hospital in India, after a two-year battle with uterine cancer.

Dr. Ije Akunyili however taking after the brilliant step of her mother is now the first ever black person to assume the position of chief medical officer in a US hospital, Jersey City Medical Center.

Ije was announced as the new director last Wednesday with a note that her appointment took effect on January 2, 2023.

“RWJBarnabas Health is proud to add Dr. Akunyili to its executive clinical leadership team. Her experience managing multi-specialty physician groups in integrated health care systems will help support Jersey City Medical Center in providing comprehensive health care throughout the community,” said Andy Anderson, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Quality Officer for RWJBarnabas Health. “She will be a tremendous asset to our team.”

“Dr. Akunyili has a wealth of experience and knowledge, and as our Chief Medical Officer, we look forward to creating a world-class experience for every patient at Jersey City Medical Center. I am confident that Hudson County will benefit in a great way from her leadership, and that her presence will have tremendous impact,” said Michael Prilutsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center.

“In her most recent role, Dr. Akunyili served as the Regional Medical Director for TeamHealth, Northeast Group, where she had strategic, operational, and clinical oversight of nearly twenty emergency departments, critical care, and hospitalist service lines in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. She led an unprecedented fourfold expansion of service lines with a specific focus on medical services and access to care for underserved populations.

“Previously, Dr. Akunyili served as the chair of emergency medicine at Waterbury Hospital, a Level II trauma teaching hospital. There she was the change agent who led a dynamic team in dramatically reducing the lengths of stay, improving overall performance across multiple patient-centered metrics, and increasing physician staffing. She was awarded the 2019 Medical Director of the Year Award for the impressive turnaround of the Waterbury Hospital Emergency Department.

“In addition to her advocacy executive experience, Dr. Akunyili has vast leadership and advocacy experience, and is currently serving as the President of the Connecticut College of Emergency Physicians (CCEP). Prior, she served for several years on the board of directors of Texas and Connecticut Colleges of Emergency Physicians. She was an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX, and she is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Yale University.”

Reacting to her appointment, she said, “I am grateful for this opportunity, and I look forward to serving the residents of Hudson County and continuing to provide safe, innovative, efficient, and equitable care.

“It is a true privilege to lead the clinical effort at Jersey City Medical Center and to create sustainable health outcomes for our community.”

Dr. Akunyili attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine after earning a Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her emergency medicine residency at UTHealth Houston’s McGovern Medical School. Dr. Akunyili also possesses an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and an MPA in international development from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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