M.D. Ass’t. Prof. of Neurology; attending physician, Columbia Univ./ Harlem Hospital Center, New York City. Age: 36
A childhood spent in Lagos, Nigeria, and in London made Olajide Williams aware, at an early age, of the uglier realities of life, forcing him to find ways to endure prejudice and xenophobia. The experience gave him a balanced view of who he is, and an understanding of what it means to be a Black man from both a minority and majority perspective, he says. “But it also helped me to understand the frailty of humanity and the many compensatory mechanisms we adopt in an effort to eclipse these weaknesses, some noble and some ignoble,” he observes. “It taught me that it is okay to cry, that it is okay to fail as long as we have given our all, that champions are made in the daily struggles, [that championship] is the accumulation of small victories in the hearts of those with the courage of conviction—those who dare to wrestle their dream into reality,” he says.
Now an assistant professor and attending physician at Columbia University/Harlem Hospital Center in New York City, Williams gives special thanks to his mother, Abisola Williams, and sister, Olatoun, for encouraging him to hold tight to his dreams. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Lagos and a graduate degree through the Neurological Institute of New York and Columbia University’s residency and fellowship training programs. His numerous awards from Columbia University include the Gold Foundation award for Humanism in Medicine and Excellence in Teaching. He is also the 2006 nominee for the Salvation Army Community Award.
Williams’ hard work extends to community service. He directs a stroke education program for a faith-based group and a “hip-hop stroke program” at an elementary school. He is a director of Sponsor A Child, a charity that provides scholarships to orphans in Africa. A resident of Harlem with his wife and two children, he instructs young people that the only way to achieve their goals is to work hard at them and never give up.