Bennet Omalu Biography

Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian American physician, neuropathologist, and forensic pathologist, is highly acclaimed for his pioneering research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He made a groundbreaking discovery by diagnosing CTE in gridiron players for the first time, while working as a neuropathologist in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Omalu’s journey began when he qualified as a medical school undergraduate at the age of 16 in Nigeria. After practicing as a physician for three years, he moved to the US to complete a fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Washington. It was during his residency training in New York City that Omalu made a significant breakthrough while conducting a postmortem on Mike Webster, a former player of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He discovered signs of CTE, a neurological condition related to recurring head trauma. Omalu’s subsequent autopsy on Terry Long, an ex-NFL player who tragically took his own life, yielded similar findings. Currently, Bennet Omalu serves as the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County and is a professor at the University of California, Davis.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu
  • Age: 55 Years, 55 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Prema Mutiso
    • Father: John Donatus Amaechi Omalu
    • Children: Ashly Omalu, Mark Omalu
  • Born Country: Nigeria
  • Pathologists
  • Black Physicians
  • Ancestry: Nigerian American
  • Notable Alumni: University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health, University Of Nigeria, Nsukka
  • Education: Carnegie Mellon University, University Of Nigeria, Nsukka, University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health

Childhood & Early Life

Bennet Omalu was born on 30 September, 1968 in South Eastern Nigeria during the country’s civil war. His father was a mining engineer and his mother worked as a seamstress. Omalu has five older siblings and one younger sibling. Due to the war, his family had to be on the run and returned home when he was two years old. He started attending primary school at the age of three and later went to Enugu Federal Government College for his secondary education. He was accepted into the University of Nigeria’s medical school at the age of 16.

Academic & Professional Career

After receiving his MBBS degree in June 1990, Omalu did an internship and served as a physician in Jos, Nigeria for three years. In 1994, he immigrated to the U.S. and completed a fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Washington. He then moved to New York City to pursue a residency program in anatomical and clinical pathology at Harlem Hospital Center. He gained experience in forensic pathology by interning at the Coroner’s office in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh under Cyril Wecht. Omalu earned multiple degrees and certifications in neuropathology and pathology. He received fellowships in pathology and neuropathology from the University of Pittsburgh and also obtained a Master of Public Health (MPH) in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. In 2008, he earned a MBA from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

Groundbreaking Research on CTE

Omalu’s groundbreaking research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) began in 2002 with the autopsy of Mike Webster, a Pittsburgh Steelers player. CTE is a neurological condition associated with repeated head trauma, previously found in boxers. Omalu discovered tau protein clusters in Webster’s brain, which could impair cognitive function and motor skills. He became the first forensic pathologist to identify CTE in an American football player. Despite facing controversy and resistance from the medical community, Omalu continued his research and established the Brain Injury Research Institute. He conducted further studies on NFL players and military veterans, highlighting the link between CTE and concussions.

Efforts to Publicize CTE in the Media

Omalu’s work gained media attention in 2009, leading to a lawsuit by retired NFL players against the league. The US House Committee on the judiciary summoned NFL executives to testify. Omalu’s research and the subsequent media coverage resulted in changes to the MTBI committee’s rules and regulations to address CTE. A book titled “Concussion” was published, based on Omalu’s work, and later adapted into a movie starring Will Smith. Omalu’s second book, “Truth Doesn’t Have a Side: My Alarming Discovery about the Danger of Contact Sports,” was published in 2017.

Personal Life

Omalu is married to Prema Mutiso, a Kenyan by birth, and they have two sons. He resides in San Joaquin County, California and practices the Catholic faith.

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