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Doctor Duo Builds Bridge of Service Around the World

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jasmine Czajka

Ifiok Idem and Emem Idem faced a dilemma.  

The young doctors were working at a small mission hospital in a remote Nigerian village when a patient arrived in dire need of surgery and a blood transfusion. The problem was there was not enough blood in the blood bank for the procedure.

Undeterred, Ifiok began the surgery while Emem made her way to the blood donation center to give her own blood for the patient. She soon delivered her fresh blood to the operating room and continued the surgery while Ifiok went to donate his blood. With enough blood on hand, the doctors continued with the procedure and saved the patient’s life. Most people would consider what the young doctors did that day to be heroic. ... but not the Idems. To them, it was just one more chapter in a life devoted to serving others.

Their goal to live a life of service has led the Idems to do many things, including becoming U.S. citizens and joining the Air Force Reserve. 

“We have been doctors in the United States for 12 years, and for 11 years in Nigeria before that,” said Maj. (Dr.) Ifiok Idem, a flight surgeon with the 507th Medical Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. “We’ve always, always been people of service, and it’s never been about what is in it for us.” Emem is also an Air Force Reserve major and flight surgeon assigned to the 507th MDS.

They began their medical careers in their home country of Nigeria, and Ifiok said that the happiest he and Emem have ever been in their medical careers was when they were working for almost no money at the mission hospital in their home country.  

“There’s something about service that just shows you who you are,” Emem said. “We always find ourselves drawn to helping the underprivileged, the vulnerable, the poor, the medically underserved. And the only effective way to make a difference for them, and in life, is to serve.” 

It took the Idems nine years to become U.S. citizens, but once they were able, they both decided to join the Air Force Reserve to continue their life of service to others and to give back. The couple said they feel honored to be able to send money back home to their families and many others in their home towns.

“Our gratitude comes from being able to have career fulfillment, personal development, family fulfillment and the financial ability to change lives tremendously,” Ifiok said. “This is a very special country with a very special mission, and there is none like it in all of the world. We are very proud to be American citizens now.”

In addition to serving others, the Idems said they enjoy meeting people from other countries and learning about their cultures. 

“We came into the military to look for how we can build peace, build love, inspire and comfort people whether they are in the military or not,” Ifiok said. “If we can be peacemakers between Nigeria and the United States through the military, then we can build a bridge, and it’s not going to stop with the Air Force. We want to spread that love and peace around the world.”

(Czajka is assigned to the 507th Air Refueling Wing public affairs office.)