Profiles / Rising S.T.E.M. Stars

Okey K. Enyia: Science as Ministry

Dr. James E. Walker Presidential Fellow, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Most people would probably agree that there is a distinct disconnect between science and religion / spirituality. Whether you’re of the traditional belief that the two are antithetical or more along the new school train of thought that science will eventually catch up with religion (or vice versa), fact is the two often conflict. For Mr. Okey K. Enyia, however, the two will always be intertwined. A spiritual man with a strong residing belief in the power of God, Mr. Enyia proclaims rather emphatically that, “Medicine is part of my ministry. When viewed in that light, a sense of purpose permeates everything that you do.”

Mr. Enyia is a force with which to be reckoned – dreams cannot be too big, territories cannot be too large. His vision is global. In addition to a medical degree, he also plans to attain degrees in public health and business with concentrations in health policy and administration. Further, he is considering Cardiology as a sub-specialty, citing the opportunity to see patients as a valuable tool in effecting positive, long-term change as it relates to the undeserved and underrepresented.

Mr. Enyia aligns HIS experience growing up to the proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” and maintains that part of his undeniable responsibility is to now lift as he climbs, helping not only his immediate family but anyone rightly within his sphere of influence. As the eldest of six siblings, Mr. Enyia grew up with parents who instilled in him the virtues of character, a strong work ethic, and the motivation to consistently strive for excellence in every facet of life.

It is that spirit of excellence and steadfast belief that is helping Mr. Enyia to achieve his advanced degrees. For the better part of a decade, Mr. Okey K. Enyia took the Medical College Admissions Test four times, determined to attain a competitive score for admission into medical school. He applied to medical school on three separate occasions and applied to post-baccalaureate programs twice. Mr. Enyia credits his parents, the Rev. Dr. Samuel and Mrs. Irene Enyia with instilling in him and his siblings the “relentless” type of work ethic that has and will continue to contribute directly to his ability to ultimately become a productive member of our global society. As well, his siblings are leaders in higher education, law, politics, healthcare, business, and athletics. “I’ve had the blessing of very supportive family and friends who have encouraged me every step of the way,” he says.

It may be that as a child, he became comfortable with biology because his mother was studying to be a nurse at that time. Further, biology, in particular, was one area for which Mr. Enyia developed a passion. He had consistent success mastering the material being taught and was able to bring that same passion to other areas of the basic science field.

Mr. Enyia insists part of his challenge is in properly balancing his vocation and his call – to become a “global servant-leader and compassionate vessel of healing for the mind, body, and spirit.” He encourages young black men to start by simply knowing themselves and knowing their God. Avoid comparisons which may be self-defeating and recognize that each individual is created for a particular purpose, on a particular journey. Though it may seem that you’ve aligned yourself with another who may be on a similar journey, your own uniqueness will distinguish your path from another man’s path.

Mr. Enyia also believes in maximizing one’s effectiveness by working smarter; that is, identifying the best uses of your “time, energy and resources to bring about optimal results consistently.” Real or perceived barriers pose challenges that deter young people from entering the S.T.E.M. fields – particularly along color lines. He urges students to beware of some common stumbling blocks such as: not seeking help early, sharing ones’ dreams and goals with those that may appear to be supportive but you discover that that person had ulterior motives, and/or neglecting the need for creating and maintaining a vibrant spiritual life, particularly within adversarial environments as one matriculates through school and beyond. When all is said and done, properly evaluated experience really is the best teacher.

It is the responsibility of parents and educators to actively work toward creating an environment – both at school and at home – that is conducive to learning in the S.T.E.M. fields. Primarily, students must be exposed to the idea and benefit of collaborative efforts – effectively interacting with people from all walks of life. “A plethora of studies suggest that there is a cultural view of learning which speaks to the adaptive expertise that African-American male students, for example, bring to learning. Parents, teachers, and students must be engaged at every level of the learning process coupled with encouraging high expectations from all parties involved throughout a students’ educational experience.”

Enyia’s Advice to Young Black Men

  • First and foremost, know who you are and whose you are.
  • Arrive at a place where you become comfortable in your own skin while being receptive to feedback and committed to perpetual improvement.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Write your vision down, setting realistic and measurable goals.
  • With the vision keenly in sight, make up in your mind that nothing will deter you from the end goal.
  • Seek out exceptional mentors

Best Advice

It’s challenging to select just one piece of “best advice” but I’ll go with “learn how to enjoy the journey because the journey is just as great as the destination.”

My Mentors and Why

Mentors are teachers of wisdom. Mentors also serve as transformational coaches and provide a system of accountability conducive to optimal growth and development. As a man of God and based on my personal experience, my most important “mentor” is the Holy Spirit. To some people, that may be received or perceived as abstract but this is part of my belief system as an unapologetic Christian. Subsequently, I have several mentors and each one serves a particular purpose in my personal and professional life.

Invent One Thing

While it is still relatively early in my career, I look forward to patenting a medical device or creating a surgical procedure that will revolutionize the field of medicine as we know it. My goal is to always leave a place better than how I found it in some form or fashion.

Book Currently Reading

Excellence in Character by Robb Thompson, The Journey from Pain to Purpose by Charlyn Singleton, The Seven Mountain Mantle by Johnny Enlow, Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone et al, The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine, and The Man God Uses by Henry and Tom Blackaby. I am constantly working to improve myself and at this stage of my life, these books (a couple that I am re-reading actually) resonate with where I am in my development and ministry.