Dr. Nowamagbe Austin Mitchell Omoigui (March 28, 1959 – April 18, 2021) was a pre-eminent interventional cardiologist in Columbia, South Carolina, and foremost Nigerian- American civil-military historian.
Born in the United Kingdom and raised in Nigeria, Dr. Omoigui was a precocious talent who set records everywhere he went. He graduated from high school (with the ordinary level school certificate as it was known at the time) at age 15, from Federal Government College, Warri in Nigeria. He graduated with distinction and set a record as the first in the history of the school (and one of the first in the West Africa) to obtain a Grade A1, the highest available grade, in Fine Arts. In 1975, after a year at King’s College in Lagos, Nigeria (where he had entered for the advanced level, higher school certificate as it was known at the time), he gained admission to study Medicine at Nigeria’s premier medical school, the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. In 1981, he graduated at the top of his medical school class with distinction and delivered the valedictory speech. After the required internship (as a house officer), he spent a mandatory year of service at the Nigeria Army Brigade of Guards where he set new records by coordinating a never-done-before air, sea, and land military disaster
drill, and received a National Award in recognition of his contributions from the then President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, in 1983.
In the U.S., he did his post-graduate medicine residency at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, NY and later served as Chief Resident at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He obtained a master’s degree in public health with particular interest in Health Resource Management and Policy, from the University of Illinois. Nowa completed a residency in cardiology at Stanford University and in Interventional Cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic (America’s best heart center). After relocating to the U.S., Nowa continued his tradition of collecting awards and setting records. He was awarded the Timothy Beckett (1992) and Hewlett Packard (1993) Awards, and awards for excellence as a post-doctoral fellow in Cardiovascular Disease.
He set the record among clinical fellows at the Cleveland Clinic for the highest number of abstracts submitted and presented (as first author) at a single National meeting (American Heart Association 1994). Dr. Omoigui also published numerous research papers in many of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. Importantly, he set a new record when he became the first Nigerian (and African) immigrant, and perhaps the youngest ever to do so, to be Chief of Cardiology at the University of South Carolina in December 1994 at the age of 35.
In 1996, he was the Chief of Cardiology, the Program Director of Cardiology Fellowship, Director at the VA Medical Center, and the Chairman of the Governing Board of Regents. During the Desert Storm military campaign, Nowa logged into the high-level war-room that was full of military Generals, discussing tactics and strategies of military warfare.
Dr. Omoigui was an academic researcher, a masterful orator, a precociously gifted painter, a world-renowned military historian and was widely recognized for his scholarship on national security, civil-military relations, national and traditional history, and politics. In fact, many would arguably call him a genius.
Prior to the advent of the Web, Nowa would casually give you facts and figures about events. By the time you checked, he would be correct about the date, time, place and everything else. His brain was like a walking encyclopedia. Despite his record-setting achievements and his intellectual prowess, he was always humble, easily approachable,
and always ready to help friends, family and his younger colleagues who sought his counsel.
Known for his intellectual sagacity, his polymathic breadth and depth of knowledge, expertise and interests, and his charmingly disarming sense of humor coupled with the loudest laugh this side of the Atlantic Ocean, Dr. Omoigui was a force of nature. Ever simple yet beautifully complex, he combined the perspicacious erudition of a sage with the boundless curiosity and passion of a child. He had an encyclopedic brain and a beautiful heart. He was sui generis, one of a kind, and just a genuinely good person.
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