Constable: Island med school president uses IT skills honed in suburbs

  • The skills Adedayo Akande learned as a member of the IT team at the Oak Brook office of Kellogg Co. are still paying dividends. As president of the University of Health Sciences Antigua, Akande has kept the medical school going during the pandemic.

    The skills Adedayo Akande learned as a member of the IT team at the Oak Brook office of Kellogg Co. are still paying dividends. As president of the University of Health Sciences Antigua, Akande has kept the medical school going during the pandemic. Courtesy of University of Health Sciences Antigua

  • The University of Health Sciences Antigua offers a medical school education, and year-round temperatures in the 80s.

    The University of Health Sciences Antigua offers a medical school education, and year-round temperatures in the 80s. Courtesy of University of Health Sciences Antigua

 
 
Posted12/14/2021 5:30 AM

With a degree in computer science from Western Michigan University, Adedayo Akande had the winter driving skills required for the daily commute from his home in Chicago to Oak Brook for his job working on the IT infrastructure team at the Kellogg Co. office.

A decade later, the 36-year-old is president of the University of Health Sciences Antigua, one of the oldest private medical schools in the Caribbean. But his time in Oak Brook is still reaping dividends.

 

"My initial background was in computer sciences," Akande says by phone while strolling through his campus on the island of Antigua. "Oak Brook really became a second stomping grounds for me."

With its average high temperature of 84 degrees in December and a sea temperature of 81, Antigua clearly offers more comfortable grounds than winter in the suburbs. But Oak Brook provided Akande with the skills that have proved essential in his role as one of the youngest university presidents.

"It was key to everything I'm doing now," Akande says. "The experience was priceless."

So were the lessons taught to him by his parents, Yele Akande and Deborah Robinson-Akande. His dad was born in Nigeria and came to the United States to study at Loyola University, where he met his future wife, who was born in Chicago. In 1982, Yele Akande founded the University of Health Science Antigua, with a promise to educate exemplary physicians and nurses "while demonstrating sensitivity to the diverse cultural environments in which medical care is delivered."

He died in 2009 of a heart attack in Puerto Rico at age 60, after his body suffered from the strain of undergoing dialysis treatment for failing kidneys.

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"After his passing, I came onboard full time with the university to continue my father's legacy," Adedayo Akande says.

His mom, who also serves on the school's board of trustees, made a name for herself as the first female dentist on the island. The university is located on Dr. Yele Akande Drive.

Adedayo Akande says the skills he learned in Oak Brook gave him an advantage when the pandemic shut down classes in 2020.

"Once COVID hit, like every other school in the world, we had to shift part of our programming online," says Akande, who has a doctoral degree in education but also has the computer background on the ways to move classes online.

He acknowledges that medical schools outside the U.S. sometimes are not given legitimacy. "The stigma has always been there," Akande says, recognizing that there have been a few "fly-by-night" institutions that came and went. The nearly 40-year-old University of Health Sciences Antigua puts students enrolled in the four-year medical school on "the same exact pathway" as students at U.S. schools, Akande says.

Among the school's graduates is Dr. Rana Chakraborty, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic, who has served as chair for the committee of pediatric AIDS at the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is headquartered in Itasca.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"A lot of times it was Plan B," Akande says of his school's students, noting medical schools in the U.S. have far more applicants than they do openings. "The bulk of these students are excellent students."

The nursing school, which is more hands-on, had to shut down during the pandemic, and Akande is not sure when that program will restart. The medical school, which usually has about 300 students, is down to about 200 online, but he's expecting that to change soon.

"We're pretty much an empty campus until February, when we hope we can welcome back our students," he says.

When that happens, students won't have to worry about commuting in the snow, but sunscreen is recommended.

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