“People want to be healthy,” Why Dr. Odutayo Believes Systems and the Social Side of Medicine Are How We Improve Men’s Health 

Dr. Ayodele Odutayo is a general internist and nephrologist, serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Toronto General Hospital.

His love for science and a desire to help improve the lives of others led him to pursue medicine at age 12. He credits a large portion of his success in navigating the journeys to and through medicine, to the community of leaders and mentors that supported him unconditionally.  The first of these being his mother, who noticed his love for science, and decided to move to Canada from the British Virgin Islands to provide greater access to education and opportunities. 

Throughout his time pursuing medicine, he names BPAO as an ever present participant in his process. He began as a student member, and now sits on the Continuing Medical Education Committee. 

“It’s been incredible to watch the BPAO grow and transform, especially coming into a very strong leadership role during the pandemic. They really were a voice for a lot of people who didn’t have voices,” he said.

He also represents the BPAO in a public policy role as a member of a Chronic Kidney Disease Working Committee at the Ontario Renal Network. 

Serving as a voice for those who don’t have voices is a large part of the extracurricular work that Dr. Odutayo prioritises. He names this kind of work as part of how he takes care of himself, organizing his selfcare into two categories; personal and professional. 

He believes that aligning his work with his passions and values is one of the ways he’s able to sustain and maintain fuel for his work. 

“My research doesn’t focus on social disparities, but I found a way to carve out a niche where I could use my skill set to tackle some of those topics that are important to me, and I think that’s what gives me a lot of energy and keeps me motivated.”

For his personal self-care practices, he highlights maintaining his community and social ties as key, along with keeping up with his general health best-practices like eating nourishing foods, and exercise.

“It’s easy in medicine to be disconnected and live in a cocoon, removed from the community that got you to where you are and the village that raised you. So I try to stay connected to that village,” he said. 

As we honour men’s health month, we’re encouraged to think about strategies and solutions toward improved outcomes, particularly for Black men in our communities. Dr. Odutayo believes this happens at two levels; systems and social. 

“At a system level, we have to acknowledge that achieving greater diversity in the medical profession can also help us move the needle on connecting with communities that are either disenfranchised from a health standpoint, or socio-economic standpoint. The better our medical profession represents the people we serve, the better we will be able to move the needle forward on improving the health and well being of our communities.”

Connection, which can be expedited when there is similar lived experience, is an element Dr. Odutayo believes to be equally critical. He believes that meeting people exactly where they are at can be the difference maker in someone receiving care and acting on advice given. This more social aspect of seeing people’s humanity, and trusting that they’re competent and capable, is key. 

“We have to trust that everyone is interested in their health and well being, people want to be healthy. If you can tap into what motivates them to be healthy, I think you can ultimately counsel people to consider the benefits and risks of health care treatment so they can make decisions that they will feel okay with.”

He acknowledges that this process can take time, and that our system is not designed in a way that values the time it takes to do this deeper work.

“But I really do believe that’s the best way forward,” he said. 

“We know what works. It is whether as a society, we will prioritize that over competing priorities.” 

As the system starts to reflect the patient community, he believes that naturally, those more humanizing processes will unfold. With greater mutual understanding, comes trust. Something deeply lacking for Black men and communities in current healthcare systems. 

In the meantime, Dr. Odutayo looks forward to continuing to be a face that Black men can find comfort in when accessing care. With each committee he joins and at every new step in his medical career, he opens up opportunities, using his voice for people that look like him–either as someone accessing the services, or providing them. 

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