Onye Emmanuel Akwari, MD, FACS, FRCS(C), Professor of Surgery, Division of Surgical Sciences, will receive the Raymond Gavins Distinguished Faculty Award from the Samuel DuBois Cook Society at Duke University on February 19, 2019 at the society’s annual dinner. Dr. Akwari trained at the Mayo Clinic and was recruited to Duke in 1978 as associate professor by Dr. David C. Sabiston Jr, legendary Chair of the Duke Department of Surgery. Dr. Akwari was the first African American faculty member in the Department of Surgery and the second African American faculty member in the medical center hired to the tenure track.
During his 17 years of active practice before his illness in 1995, Dr. Akwari was noted for a combination of skill and compassion for his patients and their families. His laboratory investigation involved hormonal, neural, and electrical control of gastrointestinal motility. From his laboratory and clinical research, he published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. A dedicated lab mentor, he advised physician assistants, pre-med students, medical students, and trainees involved in laboratory research. He served on several committees in the School of Medicine, including the Curriculum Committee, the Search Committee for the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, and the School of Medicine Admissions Committee for 15 years. He was a founding member of the Clinical Council and received the Golden Apple Award in 1987.
On the university side, Dr. Akwari served on the Athletic Council, the Academic Council for 12 years, and the Executive Committee of Academic Council for 7 years. He served on several Trustee Committees, including the Honorary Degrees and Medical Center Affairs Committees. He chaired the Search Committee for the head of African American Studies. In 1987, he was named the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year. He was a founding member of the Samuel DuBois Cook Society.
Dr. Akwari was a leader in surgery on the national stage. He served as Chair of the Surgical Section and Executive Committee Member of the National Medical Association. He was a founding member, organizer of the founding meeting, and the second president of the Society for Black Academic Surgeons. He was a founding member of the World Association of Hepatobiliary Surgeons. Additionally, he holds memberships in the American Surgical Association and the American Gastroenterological Association. He served on the Membership and Auditing Committees of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, and the International Relations Committee of the American College of Surgeons.
A U.S. citizen, Dr. Akwari immigrated to the United States from Southeastern Nigeria in 1962 to attend the University of Washington where he was a varsity track and field and soccer athlete and a member of the student government. He received an Honorary Citizenship of the City of Seattle for his work there and was student body president at the University of Southern California School of Medicine.
About the Award
The Samuel DuBois Cook Society was founded in 1997 in recognition of Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, a retired Duke professor and Dillard University president who dedicated his professional life to social justice. According to the society’s website, their mission is to “recognize, celebrate, and affirm the presence of African American students, faculty, and staff at Duke University.”
The Raymond Gavins Distinguished Faculty Award was established in the name of Raymond Gavins. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, Professor Gavins joined the Duke Department of History in 1970 as the department’s first African American professor. He helped establish the Department of History’s Oral History Program and served as a mentor to Duke students and faculty up until his death in 2016.