T he specialties of Dr. Raymond Osarogiagbon lie in oncology and hematology. Yet if he’d followed his initial interest as a boy growing up in West Africa, those specialties might today be listed as constitutional law and appellate briefs. “I was interested in law when I was younger, and that was something I wanted to do.”
He says he was stimulated and challenged by the environment in which he grew up, especially from his parents, both of whom were educators in Nigeria. “In the third world, your way up and out into society is primarily through the educational system, so there’s a lot of emphasis placed on school and achievement, and a lot of guidance from parents about what to do,” he says.
It was his mother’s focus on medicine which eventually led Dr. O (as he’s known around his office on the Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis campus) into medicine.
“Ultimately, of course, I ended up going to medical school and it’s been wonderful because I think I have found a mission in life.”
A natural curiosity and interest in medicine (with maybe a little goading from his mother) would eventually lead Osarogiagbon from Nigeria to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo for a residency in internal medicine. He was interested in studying sickle cell disease as an asset of value he could take back home to Africa, and as a carrier of the gene himself. At the urging of his attending physician to broaden his range into oncology, a dual interest soon came into focus.
Osarogiagbon would go on to a fellowship at the University of Minnesota before moving back to Texas and working as Chief of Medicine for the Amarillo Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
In Memphis he saw opportunity. “If you look at the lung cancer incidents on a map of America, the Mid-South and Memphis are smack in the middle of it. It almost doesn’t matter what disease you’re talking about — if you look at lung cancer, if you look at heart disease, if you look at stroke, if you look at dying from a road traffic accident — the map is the same, and Memphis is in the center. So, I was always intrigued.”
He moved here in 2005 with the Boston Baskin Group and has relished his work seeking new and better ways to treat cancer ever since.
“Challenge is opportunity, that’s all it is,” he says. “Opportunity doesn’t come in splendid garments, she comes in tattered robes because if she came well-dressed, everybody would recognize her and woo her. Opportunity comes as a peasant and you have to see past the grime and dirt to see the princess hidden within.”