Born in Nigeria, Dr. Olajide Williams received his medical degree from the University of Lagos. In 1997, he moved to New York, where he subsequently completed his internship at Harlem Hospital and neurology residency and clinical neurophysiology fellowship at the Neurological Institute of New York. Presently, Dr. Williams serves as Chief of Staff of Neurology, Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology, and Director of Acute Stroke Services at Columbia University Medical Center. To tens of thousands of children, however, he’s simply known as the Hip Hop Doc or the Hip Hop MD.
In 2005, Dr. Williams developed the Hip Hop Stroke program in partnership with the National Stroke Association. His mission: to educate young African-Americans and Latinos, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, about health through hip hop. That program has since evolved into an organization called Hip Hop Public Health, whose leadership team includes rappers Doug E. Fresh and Easy A.D. Hip Hop Public Health has released an album and music videos so far and plans to expand nationally this year.
Dr. Williams’ desire to help others stems from his days as a medical student, during which he saw the stark contrast between the good fortune of his family and the poverty of his fellow Africans. “That gave me a new momentum to always try to reach out to those who are less fortunate.” He chose hip hop to raise awareness about disease prevention among kids because they “love it.”
To craft educational and catchy songs that children would enjoy, Dr. Williams teams up with Doug E. Fresh, Hip Hop Public Health’s Vice President of Entertainment. Dr. Williams tells Fresh what he needs in the songs, and Fresh provides the beats. Hip hop stars are then brought in to perform the songs, and Sesame Street writer Ian Ellis James makes the music videos.
Dr. Williams has received several local and national accolades for his work, including the NAACP Community Service Award and the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation Urban Health Award.