Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami was appointed as the Interim Director of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) and assumed the role of Director of Adaptive Sports, a newly established unit within Student Life, on July 1, 2020. Dr. Okanlami has since been appointed as Director of SAAS which oversees SSD, Adaptive Sports and Fitness, and the Testing Accommodation Centers, as of July 1, 2021. He serves as an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine & Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine. He is also the Director of MDisability Community Engagement, serves as the Disability Issues Representative for the AAMC’s Group on Diversity and Inclusion, and is the Spokesperson for Guardian Life in their “Equal & Able” partnership.
“Dr. O” was born in Nigeria before immigrating to the US at a young age. He attended High School at Deerfield Academy and college at Stanford University where he also ran Track & Field serving as captain his last two seasons and achieving Academic All American recognition.
He then earned his MD from the University of Michigan before matching into Orthopedic Surgery at Yale. At the beginning of his 3rd year he experienced a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the chest down, and giving him a perspective “from the other side of the stethoscope,” adding disability to his already marginalized status as a black man in medicine. After two surgeries and intense rehabilitation, he was blessed with some return of motor function.
Dr. Okanlami went on to earn a Master’s in Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship from The University of Notre Dame, and completed his Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. He served on the St. Joseph County Board of Health, appointed by former Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and an executive board member of the River City Challenged Athletes, a non-profit supporting the local adaptive sports teams. He was featured on Robin Roberts Good Morning America Series “Thriver Thursday,” and has a catch phrase, “Disabusing DisabilityR,” hoping to demonstrate that DISability doesn’t mean INability. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society, received Michigan Medicine’s Distinguished Early Career Alumni Award in 2020, and was given the “A Teacher’s Teacher Award'' by the Academy of Medical Educators.
Dr. Okanlami aims to make his work and his life a demonstration that disability is not inability. He focuses his work on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion broadly, now as an individual living at the intersection of disability and race. He discusses how disability is just one aspect of diversity, but one that is often missed in many diversity initiatives. He speaks around the country on topics related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, including, but not limited to the lack of black male physicians and creating a health system that is accessible and inclusive to both patients and providers with disabilities. He is also leading efforts to grow the adaptive sports program, providing access to physical fitness, recreational, and competitive sports for all.