Ikwunga Wonodi Social Justice and Health Equity in Psychiatry Award

Ikwunga Wonodi, M.D., DFAPA had an admirable, extensive career in psychiatry that led to his promotion to Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine as well as to many awards throughout his years in the field— the H. McKee Jarboe Award for Mental Health Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association (APA)/CMHS Minority Fellowship Award, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (DFAPA), the 2017 African Community Service Award, the Jeanne Spurlock Minority Fellowship Achievement Award, and the UM/SEPH Rose Award are only a few amongst multiple honors that he received. He contributed over thirty peer-reviewed articles, several of which he first-authored, and wrote numerous chapters in leading psychiatric textbooks.

Dr. Wonodi completed an extended Research Residency in Psychiatry as well as a schizophrenia research fellowship.  He presented his research—the genetics of schizophrenia, medication-induced motor disorders, psychiatric genomics, and ethnopsychopharmacology—at prestigious conferences and programs including the National Medical Association National Conference and the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Lagos.  He successfully won repetitive competitive grant funding for his research from the National Institutes of Mental Health, NARSAD and the Passano Foundation.

However, Dr. Wonodi’s contributions to the field extended far beyond his innovative research and academic contributions. His clinical expertise spanned the areas of first episode psychosis, schizophrenia related disorders, motor disorders, antipsychotic-induced side effects, clozapine treatment and long-acting injectable medications.  He took time when working with patients, understanding the need for different methods of care and communication for individuals from diverse backgrounds and differing treatment needs. Amongst his peers and admirers, he was respected as a compassionate mentor to young psychiatrists. While working at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Dr. Wonodi formed a clinical elective for University of Maryland School of Medicine medical students. He also mentored several post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. His enthusiasm for education was exemplified in his willingness to present lectures to students upon their request and encourage undergraduates to pursue careers in medicine and psychiatry.  He volunteered much of his time to programs focused on cultural diversity, educating others on the importance of cultural inclusion within psychiatry and providing mentorship to minority fellows and residents within the APA Minority Fellowship Program.

Dr. Wonodi also excelled as a psychiatric hospital leader and administrator at Sheppard Pratt Health System and MedStar Health Systems. He was the Medical Director of Behavioral Health Service, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center; Service Chief of the General Adult Unit and Thought Disorders Day Hospital, at Sheppard Pratt Baltimore Washington Campus (BWC); and ad hoc Medical Director, Sheppard Pratt BWC. He earned an MBA in health care management from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, which allowed him to combine knowledge of hospital management with his finely honed clinical skills to create both efficient and effective programs to meet patient needs.

Much of Dr. Wonodi’s work centered around advocating for underrepresented individuals who are historically overlooked in psychiatry. He established an organization called The African Alliance on Mental Illness (TAAMI) to identify and eliminate barriers to mental health for Africans over the continent and African immigrants in the US.

In addition to Dr. Wonodi’s work as a physician, researcher, educator, and advocate, he was an artist. He used his skills as a writer, a musician, and, unknown to many of his peers, a dancer to create art for all to enjoy. Not only did he share his creative gift, but he often donated proceeds of his projects in support of underserved and underrepresented communities.

Ikwunga Wonodi’s impact on physicians, students, and patients in Maryland, the United States, and across the world is long-lasting.

To recognize and extend Dr. Wonodi’s contributions to psychiatry, the Maryland Psychiatric Society Community Psychiatry and Diversity Coalition, of which he was a longstanding member, recommends establishing a new award. The Ikwunga Wonodi Social Justice and Health Equity in Psychiatry Award will honor a Resident, Fellow, or Early-Career Psychiatrist (within seven years of completing their training) who has demonstrated distinction in advocating for human rights and equity in psychiatric care for people with severe mental illness from historically marginalized and underserved communities through teaching, research, clinical work, and/or public health advocacy.  This recognition will encourage residents, fellows, and early-career psychiatrists to participate in education, research, mentorship, and culturally diverse activities within psychiatry and to actively incorporate compassion and service into their careers.  The honor is designed to reflect Dr. Wonodi’s values and contributions to psychiatry and the community.

Award Guidelines

  • Recipients of the Dr. Ikwunga Wonodi Award must be current Maryland Psychiatric Society members who are Residents, Fellows, or Early Career Psychiatrists within seven years of completing their training.
  • In addition to clinical, research, and education excellence, nominees should show evidence of advocating for human rights and equity in psychiatric care for people with severe mental illness from historically marginalized and underserved communities and exemplify Dr. Wonodi’s passion for uplifting others. Examples include:
    • Exemplifies a holistic and culturally responsive approach to patient care in clinical practice.
    • Engages in impactful advocacy efforts at the local, national, and international levels: legislative initiatives, community outreach programs, and public awareness campaigns aimed at promoting mental health equity and reducing stigma.
    • Advocates for the needs of marginalized communities within healthcare systems, striving to dismantle barriers to access and promote inclusivity in psychiatric services.
    • Enacts innovative teaching methodologies that integrate cultural competence and social justice principles into psychiatric education.
    • Participates in research projects that shed light on the systemic disparities that exist in access to mental health services among underserved populations.
  • It is not required for applicants to identify as ethnic minorities; however, African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are especially encouraged to apply.