May 20, 2021
The American Board of Surgery (ABS), the national certifying body for general surgeons, vascular surgeons and related specialists, is pleased to announce that Adanwimo "Ada" Okafor will become its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) officer, effective June 1. In addition to this exciting new role, she will serve as the Board's associate general counsel. Okafor most recently served as of counsel in the employee benefits and executive compensation practice group at Ballard Spahr LLP.
"We are very pleased and proud to have been able to recruit Ada Okafor as our first CDEIO," said Dr. Jo Buyske, ABS president and CEO. "This represents our real, long term commitment to making real change at the ABS and in surgical leadership. We are prepared to provide the partnerships and resources needed to make her portfolio of work an enduring legacy."
A dynamic individual who is passionate about DEI, Okafor has contributed to a plethora of diversity efforts in her professional life. At Ballard Spahr, she served on the Leadership Committee of the Black Lawyers Group and helped curate a Race and Allyship Resource List consisting of books, articles, movies, and podcasts that provided information on the black experience in America. The List also included resources that explained what it means to be an ally and provided meaningful ways for her colleagues to support social justice organizations. She also collaborated with Ballard's African Lawyers to spearhead the African Law Students Dinners and lay the groundwork for the African Lawyers Summit. In addition, she was an active member of the Women Lawyers Group.
Okafor holds a law degree from American University, Washington College of Law, as well as an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University.
"My desire to help people led me to pursuing a legal career," said Okafor. "I'm passionate about DEI because I believe it helps create an inclusive environment so that people can do their best work and have their individual skills and talents recognized, appreciated and utilized."
Okafor's background makes her uniquely suited for her dual roles at ABS. Born in Nigeria, she was raised in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States with her parents when she was a teenager. Once in the U.S., Okafor and her family lived in New Haven, CT and Buffalo, NY before settling in Dallas, TX. While it was very challenging to constantly uproot her life as a young woman, she attributes her immigration experience to her passion for DEI.
"Because I moved so much, I had to be flexible, nimble, and able to adapt to new environments, new people, and new ways of life. These moves helped me develop a global perspective through which I saw, understood and interacted with the world and the people around me."
Okafor has been involved with numerous conferences on promoting diversity in the legal profession such as the Corporate Women of Color Conference, and has been trained on implicit/unconscious bias, microaggressions, microassaults, microinsults, microinvalidations, and the appropriate ways to validate and respond to those impacted by such words and actions. She is excited to wear both a legal hat and a DEI hat in her dual roles at ABS, and use the skillsets that she has developed and honed in both areas to help drive ABS' commitment to be a diverse, antiracist, equitable and inclusive organization.
"I'm motivated to see ABS' DEI program succeed and to help create a supportive and inclusive work environment for everyone," she said. "DEI initiatives are often met with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm in the beginning, but, if done incorrectly, they often fail or taper out unproductively. Organizations have to invest resources, time, energy and human capital in order for DEI initiatives and programs to be fruitful. This doesn't happen by accident. Rather, DEI efforts must be strategic, fostered deliberately, and be an integral part of an organization's culture, recruitment, and business strategy. I'm excited to be able to help facilitate this at ABS."
The American Board of Surgery (ABS) is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1937 for the purpose of certifying individuals who have met a defined standard of education, training and knowledge in the field of surgery. Surgeons certified by the ABS have completed at least five years of surgical training following medical school and successfully completed a written and oral examination process administered by the ABS. They must then maintain their board certification through ongoing learning and practice improvement activities. The ABS offers board certification in general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical critical care, complex general surgical oncology, surgery of the hand, and hospice and palliative medicine. It is one of the 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties
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