Dr. Bukola Olubi: A passion for people

February 2019
Photos by Marie Thomas
Make up by Alex Lucas

When Bukola Olubi, M.D. recalls her childhood in Nigeria, she realizes the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child,” tells the story of her experience. She grew up surrounded by family and friends who constantly encouraged her.

“It takes an entire community of different people, interacting with children in order for children to grow into responsible members of society,” says Dr. Olubi. “My extended family played an important role in shaping who I am today, as well as many other people along the way who have influenced me in one way or another.”

Bukky and her siblings Robert, Tola and Adeola

The oldest of four children, Dr. Olubi took her role as firstborn seriously – helping to care for and encourage her younger siblings. Her sister, Tola Olorunnisola, recalls their childhood together: “From as far back as I can remember, every time I faced a tough decision or problem, Bukky was always there by my side. Whether it was with a phone call or a quick email, she always had the right words of encouragement. Come to think of it, she probably had more sleepless nights than I did and it was not even her problem to start with!”

Bukky doing life with her favorite people: Olu, Daughter, Nife; and sons, Tele and Siji.

Dr. Robert Olubi, Bukola’s brother, agrees with Tola’s assessment of their sister: “We grew up in a close-knit family and being the eldest, Bukky would always look out for the rest of us. Some might say I was her favorite sibling. She would take me to the video store, back in the day when they still existed, even though she had other things to do. Those were some of the fondest memories I have of my childhood simply because she was never too busy to spend time with me and with family… She helped me get into college, and I can honestly say that during the tough times through my residency she was always there with a word of encouragement and I was fortunate to have her to look up to.”

Dr. Olubi considers her maternal grandmother one of the greatest influences in her life. Since her father, a respected physician, and her mother, a nurse, worked long hours outside the home, her maternal grandmother, helped to care for her and her siblings. She passed away last Thanksgiving at the age of 92, and Dr. Olubi has spent time reminiscing about her fondest memories of her grandmother.

Despite never having had a formal education, her grandmother raised six children and continuously emphasized the value of an education. Dr. Olubi remembers coming home from school, excited to share what she learned that day because her grandmother was always so interested.

Bukky and her sister Adeola in Elementary school.

Later, when Bukola was attending a boarding school nearby, with strict visiting rules, she recalls how her grandmother would sometimes prepare one of her favorite meals, walk to the school, and wait outside the gate until someone passed by who could alert Bukola she was there. Her grandmother prayed every day for all the family – a legacy that Dr. Olubi continues today with her own children, covering them in prayer each day.

As far back as she can remember, Dr. Olubi always wanted to be a doctor. As a child, she spent time at the hospital with her father as he made his rounds. She laughs as she talks about her competitive drive: “I have always been focused and driven. I have always worked hard and tried to do my best. I realized becoming a doctor would take hard work and focus.”

Drs Olubi and Joshua in visiting South Africa in 2017

Her paternal grandmother was a key influence in her decision to become a doctor. She lost this grandmother at an early age to complications from diabetes. Her untimely death hit Bukola hard, and she wondered what could have been done to prevent this disease and its complications. It made her realize the importance of preventative medicine – helping people make healthy lifestyle choices to lead to better outcomes.

Dr. Olubi graduated from Saba University School of Medicine in the Netherlands Antilles and completed her residency at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, where she was chief resident and received the Outstanding Senior Resident Award.

During her residency, when doing a cardiology rotation, Dr. Olubi’s interest was piqued when she saw patients suffering similar heart complications her grandmother had encountered from diabetes. These heart issues resonated with her, and she wanted to learn more.

“The heart just makes sense,” says Dr. Olubi. “As long as you understand how it works, you can really implement a plan of care.”

Dr. Joshua and Dr. Olubi’s wedding day in Lagos Nigeria.

A mutual friend introduced Dr. Olubi to her future husband, Dr. Olu Joshua. Their paths had crossed before when both worked at the same hospital in Chicago, but they never met there. He was a fellow at a hospital in St. Louis, while Dr. Olubi was a resident in Chicago, when both were invited to a friend’s birthday party. Although Dr. Olubi does not recall seeing Dr. Joshua at the party, he noticed her and called their mutual friend to contact her on his behalf.  

“We connected right away over the phone,” remembers Dr. Olubi. “We spoke often on the phone since we did not live in the same city.”

Both had many things in common besides medicine, including growing up in the same area of Nigeria and speaking the same dialect. After dating for an extended period, Dr. Joshua flew home to Nigeria to meet Bukola’s parents who were thrilled for her to marry someone in the medical field from her cultural background.

Dr. Olubi and Dr. Joshua married and lived and practiced medicine in Chicago, where their daughter was born, but always had a desire to move to the South for the warmer climate and to reconnect with some family and friends. While interviewing for an opening in Pulmonary Critical Care at Piedmont Fayette Hospital, Dr. Joshua learned of a cardiology opening at the hospital. Dr. Olubi interviewed for this opening, and after meeting the doctors and staff, never interviewed anywhere else.

“I loved the hospital’s values, which aligned with my own,” recalls Dr. Olubi.

Bukky doing life with her favorite people: Olu, Daughter, Nife; and sons, Tele and Siji.

Both doctors were hired at Piedmont Fayette in 2005, and the family moved to Peachtree City, where two sons were born to complete their family. Dr. Olubi specializes in clinical cardiology, is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and Board of Cardiovascular Disease. She is a member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

Because Dr. Olubi and her husband work long hours at the hospital, both cherish and value family time. After church, Dr. Joshua likes to whip up a tasty barbecue meal on the grill for family and friends. They love playing board games with the kids.”

Olu and Bukky in Robben Island, South Africa

I would have to say that I am most proud of my family,” Dr. Olubi says. “I have always had a passion for people, with a desire to ensure those around me become the best versions of themselves, aspire to be more, and live a fruitful and fulfilled life. This was only heightened when I had my children. I take my responsibility as a mother very seriously as I am aware of how parental and adult influence will shape who children will become.”

In her spare time, Dr. Olubi enjoys listening to music to relax (particularly the artist, Enya) and also makes time for reading and traveling. When she turned 40, her husband planned a trip to Europe as a surprise.

“I got on the plane not knowing where exactly I was going,” recalls Dr. Olubi. “I was safely strapped into my seat when my family walked onboard the plane. It was amazing! I got to travel with my family and my sisters and brother, and we were all together for the first time in a long time. It was truly special.”

Dr. Joshua reminisces about their life together: “Over the last 21 years Bukky has given me great joy beyond belief, from dating to wedding, from mortgage to kids, from illness to uncertainty, life has been a wonderful ride with her love.  Despite the demanding circumstances of everyday life, she has never lost her grace and poise. She has this amazing way of giving you hope no matter what. I remember telling her I was going to marry her the first time we met over 20 years ago…I don’t even know why, but I said it with conviction, but hey…. and I nailed it. A woman who is an awesome wife, an amazing mother, a good friend, and a fine doctor, stole my heart, and I let her have it.”

Olu, Bukky, her sister Tola and her brother-in-law Paul in Brussels, Belgium

Besides her family, Dr. Olubi’s other passion is women’s heart health, and her eyes light up when she talks about Piedmont’s innovative women’s heart program.

Bukky and her good friend Eka in Niagara Falls

“Most people don’t understand that heart disease kills more women than lung cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer combined,” says Dr. Olubi. “One in three women will have heart disease in her lifetime. Women often wait to get treated or screened because they are too busy being caretakers. They have to take care of themselves too!”

The Dottie Fuqua Women’s Heart Support Network was established at Piedmont Atlanta to empower women with or at risk for cardiovascular disease to lead healthier, longer lives by offering a supportive environment where they can connect with others and access exceptional holistic cardiovascular care attuned to their unique needs. The program launched in Fayette County in the summer of 2018 thanks to a generous donation from Fayetteville resident Vicki Turner. The programs allow women to schedule a one-on-one assessment with a health care professional, take a variety of classes focused on nutrition, setting realistic goals, physical and mental well-being, and connect with peer-to-peer support – all at no cost! The Women’s Heart Support Network pulls together fragmented services into one place, so women feel more connected and empowered.

In addition to the Women’s Heart Support Network women can benefit from a customized screening. This service does require a nominal fee but provides women with a critical assessment of their heart health and future risks. The assessment includes a physical exam, lab work, complete health history, and electrocardiogram (EKG), with recommendations for next steps.

“Getting screened for heart disease, even prevalence or risk for heart disease, can have a tremendous impact on a woman’s health,” says Dr. Olubi. “It may act as a catalyst for them to adopt healthier lifestyle practices and ward off heart disease before it is diagnosed.”

Lauren Fyock, RN, CHC, Women’s Heart Program Coordinator, knows Dr. Olubi has been instrumental in getting the program up and running.

“The heart of our Women’s Heart Program in Fayette is Dr. Olubi,” Lauren says.  “She provides the women of Fayette County with the community that they are seeking.  Her passion and zeal are evident when speaking at events, as well as in the clinic and the hospital.  You can guarantee that Dr. Olubi touches the lives of every woman she meets.”

Olu and Bukky in Sydney, Austrailia

Dr. Olubi connects with her cardiology patients and consistently gets superior ratings online for her services. If you read some of the reviews, you will notice the same traits mentioned over and over when describing her – concerned, informative, patient, caring, knowledgeable.

“I love my job and get personal satisfaction from interacting with my patients,” Dr. Olubi says. “I don’t see them just as a patient, but a whole individual, with likes, hobbies, and interests. I try to learn about them to connect and open lines of communication. So if my patient is a plumber, I will try to give a plumbing analogy when I talk about a heart issue. It takes more time initially, but in the long run, my patients better understand what is going on and what they need to do.”

Her patients appreciate her care and concern. Over the Christmas holiday, one man dropped by the office to give Dr. Olubi a coin that exemplified the three wise men giving gifts to baby Jesus. He wanted to remind her about the birth of Jesus as the greatest gift. “It touched my heart,” recalls Dr. Olubi. “This is why I love what I do.”

Dr. Olubi is equally connected to and supportive of the physicians and staff at Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

“I learned very early on the importance of being part of a team, of interacting with everyone and forming relationships,” recalls Dr. Olubi. “There is power in forming a bond and being part of a community who share the same values. Here at Piedmont Fayette, we are all patient-centered, look for better ways of doing things, and work well together.”

Olu and Bukky enjoy traveling.
Paris, France

Dr. Olubi’s passion for connecting with people has touched so many lives. Her sister, Tola Olorunnisola, describes Dr. Olubi’s impact this way: “The dictionary defines selfless as ‘concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.’ She always puts everyone else but herself first…both her family and most especially her patients.”

Dr. Olubi’s brother, Dr. Robert Olubi, agrees: “Till this day I am in constant awe of her drive, focus, and determination, but above all her passion for life and for people.”

Bukky doing life with her favorite people: Olu, Daughter, Nife; and sons, Tele and Siji.

Her husband, Dr. Joshua, recalls a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that sums up Dr. Olubi’s character and her heart for service: “‘Like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she is in hot water’ is a fine description of Bukky, who over the years has excelled in her role as student, resident, physician, wife, and mother. She has handled the transition through these different phases of her life with seamless courage, commitment, sacrifice, and compassion. Despite my occasional apprehension about one’s ability to humanly juggle these roles, she has excelled in them all.”

“I have always had a passion for people, with a desire to ensure that those around are the best versions of themselves and aspire to be more and live a fruitful and fulfilled life. “

 

Bonnie Helander

I am a writer and blogger with a specialty in gardening and a proud graduate of the University Of Georgia. I live in Peachtree City with husband, Dan, and enjoy hiking, gardening, being a member of the Peachtree City Garden Club and rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs!

February 8, 2019

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