Out of a global pandemic and international crisis has emerged heroic leaders standing up to a daunting task. One of those leaders is Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike, MD, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
For her undeterred leadership, knowledge, perseverance and commitment to public health, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) Board of Commissioners passed a resolution saluting Dr. Ezike in celebration of the contributions of African Americans during Black History Month.
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, “Dr. Ezike has become a trusted source of information and rationale for Illinoisans struggling to understand this constantly evolving situation,” the resolution states. “She has captivated audiences not only with her superior medical knowledge and expertise, but also with her ability to explain elements in a way that everyone can understand, and her ability to communicate that information in both English and Spanish.”
Each February, the MWRD celebrates Black History Month through a variety of events, educational opportunities and speaking engagements. While much of that celebration has been limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, the MWRD continued this year with a flag raising ceremony and daily videos from commissioners and staff highlighting African Americans, all befitting of this year’s theme entitled: “Persevering in a Time of National Crisis.” This theme was selected to acknowledge the resiliency of people of African descent and their ability to achieve greatness during the struggle of the novel coronavirus global pandemic.
“Dr. Ezike has been a leader, expert and steady and reliable resource to help us overcome these difficult times,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “Further, as an African American woman, she has also served as an inspiring role model for future generations of young girls to follow, and we are proud to deliver this resolution in her name and grateful for her steadfast partnership to protect our region’s health.”
The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Dr. Ezike was born in Los Angeles, Calif. She is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and pediatrician, having earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and her medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. She completed her medical internship and residency at Rush University Medical Center, where she is currently an assistant professor of pediatrics. In addition to being fluent in Spanish, Dr. Ezike also speaks French and Swahili. Prior to joining the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Ezike worked for more than 15 years with Cook County Health, as a care provider at Stroger Hospital of Cook County, and as the medical director for the Austin Health Center, and as the medical director at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.
“Dr. Ezike was put on earth to serve in this critical role at the most demanding of times, and we are proud to support her in these herculean efforts,” said Vice President Barbara McGowan. “We are moved by her passion and dedication for providing equal health care to all and her dedication to ensure vaccination resources are provided to all communities across Illinois.”
For more than three decades, under the leadership of Vice President McGowan and the MWRD Board of Commissioners, the MWRD is celebrating Black History Month for the entire month of February to show its support of the Black community and its commitment to diversity. The concept of creating Black History Month can be traced back to 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson traveled to Illinois to participate in the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. But it was not until 1976 when President Gerald R. Ford officially designated February as Black History Month.