Three members of the Memorial community have been recognized as trailblazers and leaders for their positive impacts on our communities.
Each are recipients of the 2022 Most Inspiring Immigrants in Atlantic Canada honour.
The recipients are Dr. Paul Banahene Adjei, interim dean, associate dean of graduate programs and associate professor, School of Social Work; Dr. Boluwaji Ogunyemi (MD’13), assistant dean, social accountability and clinical assistant professor of medicine (dermatology), Faculty of Medicine; and Dr. Paula Mendonça (PhD’10), director, innovation and entrepreneurship, Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, a unit within the vice-president (research) portfolio.
Dr. Adjei is a member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Indigenous Affairs, played an active role in the development of the Strategic Framework for Indigenization and is a member of the Committee on Ethical Research Impacting Indigenous Groups.
He is also a member of the Visiting Indigenous Elders pilot project at the School of Social Work.
Within the wider community, Dr. Adjei serves with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District Provincial Anti-Racism Advisory Committee and is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador RCMP Black Engagement Steering Committee.
He’s also the director of the Ghanaian Community of Newfoundland and Labrador Association.
He says as an immigrant of colour, one of the significant challenges he has faced, and continues to face, is anti-Black racism.
“However, these experiences have rather motivated me and increased my commitments to ensure that other racialized immigrants do not go through what my family has gone through in our integration and resettlement experiences,” Dr. Adjei said. “If my efforts inspire others, then I understand the further responsibilities I have been given in making sure I do not disappoint those who may look up to me. In 2013, I joined a community called Newfoundland and Labrador, and I have invested my time, scholarship and efforts to make the province, and its neighbouring provinces, better than I found them.”
‘Wonderful thing to celebrate’
Dr. Ogunyemi serves in a leadership capacity on a number of provincial and national boards and committee ranging from medical education to anti-racism and diversity and health policy.
As an anti-racism educator and advisor, he has given a TEDx talk and several keynote speeches focused on diversity and anti-racism for academic and community-based groups. He has also been published in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail and CBC.
“Newcomers from all over the globe enrich Canada in many ways and I think this is a wonderful thing to celebrate,” said Dr. Ogunyemi, who was named Memorial’s 2019 Alumni Tribute Award – Horizon Award recipient.
Dr. Ogunyemi’s own parents, who had very little when they moved to Newfoundland and Labrador from Nigeria 32 years ago, are one such example, he says.
“In those three decades, our family has been able to make tremendous contributions in the areas of education, health care, business and entrepreneurship and community service.”
His own parents and their experiences and lessons are central to his personal success, Dr. Ogunyemi says.
“While I was a recipient of the award, the recognition really belongs to my mother and father,” he said, “as well as all newcomers who, despite many additional challenges and obstacles, work day in and day out to create a better life for themselves and their families — and indeed, contribute to create a more rich and vibrant community.”
‘My forever home’
In her role at Memorial, Dr. Mendonça supports industrial liaison, research commercialization and entrepreneurial education.
She is also responsible for facilitating and supporting Memorial’s strategic and long-term approach to advance innovation and entrepreneurship.
Dr. Mendonça also empowers future generations of innovators to enhance and grow Atlantic Canada’s innovation economy.
Originally from Portugal, Dr. Mendonça moved to Newfoundland and Labrador 20 years ago. She is the founder of two small businesses and is passionate about food security.
Currently, she volunteers with the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.
“When I arrived in St. John’s in 2002, I never expected this country to be my forever home,” she told the Gazette. “The journey has not always been easy, but it is incredible to see how my community, both personal and professional, has grown and supported me through the years.”
Dr. Mendonça feels the award recognizes her contributions to Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I love supporting students, researchers and innovators in improving their odds of success in their careers by leading an office and programs that teach them invaluable skills independently of where their career takes them,” she said.
“Many of these students are from abroad, just like me. This award also brings the great responsibility of continuing to positively contribute to Canada and the sustainable social and economic growth of our Atlantic region.”
Recipients were recognized during a gala ceremony in Halifax, N.S., on March 18.
The Most Inspiring Immigrants in Atlantic Canada awards is organized by My East Coast Experience Media Group, which is based in Nova Scotia.