Dr. Njdeka Udochi, 53, is a health care provider who strives to treat all of her patients as if they were her family, caring for many, including immigrants and people who are experiencing homelessness.
“I do everything I can to provide the best care for my patients, regardless of their insurance,” Udochi said. “I don’t walk through the doors without knowing who they are and why they are here.”
Establishing a connection with each individual who walks through her doors at the Millennium Family Practice in Columbia builds trust, Udochi said. It’s why she believes people return to her practice and follow her recommendations for treatment or preventive care.
Her approach to patient care earned her the honor in February as the Family Physician of the Year by the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians.
Becky Wimmer, the academy’s executive director, said Udochi was selected from six candidates.
“She continues to provide her patients and community with passion and care,” Wimmer said. “All of her contributions made her stand out.”
Udochi said she is honored and excited by the distinction.
“When you do good work and put the community first, it can inspire people to do the same,” Udochi said.
Udochi recalled growing up in Accra, Ghana, where she frequently visited museums with her father and they would admire contemporary African art. She loved to draw and for most of her childhood wanted to pursue a career in a creative field.
However, her parents thought Udochi should dedicate her life to science and medicine because of her stellar grades in school. At 16, she went to medical school in Nigeria and was qualified to be a doctor at 22.
She then moved to Baltimore where she earned her masters in public health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and completed her residency at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington D.C.
For five years, Udochi worked as a medical director for Baltimore’s Healthcare for the Homeless and a former HIV clinic known the Health Education Resource Organization, or HERO. Her experience at both inspired Udochi to open her own practice.
“I knew I had to continue this work and wanted to delve in by providing for the greater community,” she said. “I wanted to bring services to people facing homelessness and addiction.”
After sifting through paperwork to find a location and applying to accept insurance, Udochi was assigned patients and opened her first office in Ellicott City.
Since 2004, Udochi has worked with 152,857 patients from Maryland and Washington, D.C., as well as 114 countries around the world.
“My practice serves first generation immigrants who are new to the country,” Udochi said. “My patients began telling other people about my office by word-of-mouth and now we have patients from different countries in the Middle East, the Caribbean and even Australia.”
To accommodate her growing number of patients, Udochi moved in 2013 to a larger office in Columbia, where she is currently based.
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“I try to have as much in-house urgency care as possible,” Udochi said. “I think it was key helping when COVID came because we have lifesaving devices.”
Udochi said she believes in a healing method that does not come with a prescription. She encourages her patients to draw and paint. Her office is decorated with their handcrafted artwork.
“Some of my patients are really talented,” Udochi said.
Tatyana Turner is a 2020-21 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a national service program that places emerging journalists in local newsrooms. She covers Black life and culture. Follow her @tatyanacturner
This article is part of our Newsmaker series that profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor, Sundra Hominik at email@example.com.