In his first post of the new year, philanthropist Mr. Bill Gates recognized Dr. Adaora Okoli on his website as one of his “Heroes in the Field,” a list that identifies little-known individuals helping to save the world. Dr. Okoli is a graduate student in the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine who contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients in Nigeria.
[Photo: Dr. Adaora Okoli]
“This is such a great honor for me to be recognized in this way,” said Dr. Okoli, after a day of fielding calls from media, family and friends who had seen the article. “I never imagined being called a hero.”
Dr. Okoli’s parents, who live in Nigeria, were made aware of the honor when she was asked to tape a video interview back in September. But she said that seeing the article and video published online this week made them feel exceptionally proud.
“Some people find out their purpose early in life, like Beyoncé who knew she could sing at five years old,” said Dr. Okoli. “Others find their purpose a little later, but everyone should understand that no person’s purpose is greater than another person’s.”
Mr. Gates, who recognized Dr. Okoli alongside four other heroes, said in his post:
“I wanted to call attention to some heroes among us. They are just a few of the many people using their talents to fight poverty, hunger, and disease and provide opportunities for the next generation. To all of them, wherever they are, let me say thank you. The world is a better place because of what you do.”
After completing her graduate studies in May, Dr. Okoli plans to form a career in which she combines clinical medicine with epidemiology. Her ultimate goal is to return to Nigeria to help prevent future infectious disease outbreaks.