Session: NEF Fellows Spotlight Session
March 11, 2020
11:00 – 11:45
Obidi’s career journey has taken him from engineering genes in a genetics lab to working with communities in African villages. Growing up as a child in Lagos, Nigeria, Obidi had a huge fascination for science, particularly the life sciences, which he studied at the University of Lagos. He went on to do his PhD at the University of Georgia in environmental and applied microbiology, but as he reached the end of his doctoral program, he wondered about the impact of his research and discoveries in the context of the real world: How does one effectively take high-impact innovations from the bench side to the bedside, or from the lab to the village, in order to save and improve lives? This question started him on a different career path – one that led to a Masters Degree in Policy at Yale and one year with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in New York City, where he reviewed global health and environmental projects.
Soon after his work with the UNDP, he joined the Sandra Rotman Centre in Toronto as a Senior Research Fellow. There he pioneered a Trust Building Model for a large-scale food security program in Africa. At the Centre he researched how the management of global health innovations in food security and nutrition could be improved through building trust, and had the chance to work in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. This research led to 17 peer-reviewed publications, including a supplement on fostering innovation in agricultural biotechnology partnerships published by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Security and edited by the late Prof. Calestous Juma of the Harvard Kennedy School. This work was captured by approximately 50 news sites in 12 countries through stories distributed by the Kenya-based Africa Science News Service and EFE (Spain) newswire.
In 2012 he won a fellowship from the Nigerian government to establish an academic leadership training for faculty members of the Nigerian Academy, including the Anambra State University, where he provided leadership, mentoring and workshops for doctoral students and faculty members. The following year, he joined the National Biotechnology Development Agency in Abuja, Nigeria, where he served as its Science Collaborations Director, working to build key partnerships within Nigeria and internationally to foster biotechnology development. That year he also founded the African Centre for Innovation and Leadership Development, a non-profit think tank focused on building innovation and leadership in Africa, and authored a book, “Fostering Innovation and Leadership in the African Academy”, a training and inspirational manual for African academics.
In 2015 he joined the United Nations “Every Woman Every Child” Innovation Marketplace as a Grand Challenges Fellow. There he worked with a variety of global health stakeholders to take high-impact innovations from the lab bench to the bedside and improve the health of women, children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. He also co-authored the third edition of the textbook, “An Introduction to Global Health”.
Currently, Obidi is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough and in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health of the University of Toronto. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ontario’s Institute of Technology and the President of the African Centre for Innovation and Leadership Development based in Abuja, Nigeria.
Obidi is the founder of the NutridoTM gamification program and the recipient of several awards, including the LEADS scholar award, the Anchor Environmental scholarship award and the UTSC Deans Merit Award. His research interests lie at the nexus of global health, food security and implementation science.