Bubu Banini, MD, PhD is an assistant professor (digestive diseases) at Yale School of Medicine. Born and bred in Ghana and then Nigeria, she was strongly encouraged to pursue medicine due to her brilliant results in school. She had a love for learning, and through the guidance of instructors and teachers, a love for medicine and research evolved.
According to her, she is a physician-scientist at heart, and that’s, to some extent, to answer her curiosity about a number of things in medicine, gastroenterology, and hepatology in particular.
During Banini’s time at Swarthmore College, her biology professor, Kathleen Siwicki, PhD, facilitated her interest in research by asking her to work in her lab studying the neurobiology of fruit flies.
Bubu’s uncle, John Kwaku Amable (aka Togbi Lagbo Kofa III), a surgeon introduced her to the possibility of pursuing a similar path. She grew up watching him get up early in the morning before six to go to work and returning home late at night , tired but content with his work. Her uncle was therefore her inspiration to combine her interest in medicine and research, by enrolling into a MD-PhD program at Thomas Jefferson University after completing her bachelor’s degree.
Initially hesitant to commit to practicing internal medicine and favouring research instead, her interest shifted to hepatology due to a patient she treated during her residency at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital (Sound Shore Medical Center, New York).
This patient came in with an alcohol-associated liver disease, a fairly young man in his 30s. She found it shocking that he was so sick at such a young age, and that was because he started drinking alcohol when he was a teenager. Ten years of heavy drinking had led to a severe liver disease and he needed to stop drinking in order to save his life. A few months after her encounter with the patient, she found him improved and healthy, and this was the turning point for her to pursue a specialty in digestive diseases and hepatology, and the following year becoming chief resident.
Practicing internal medicine now, she approaches her patients with compassion, empathy, and practicality.
When Banini treats patients with severe alcoholism, she’ll sometimes ask them, “have you ever sat down and calculated how much money you spent on alcohol over the years?” She described one patient in his mid-50s who did this exercise and calculated that he had spent $140,000 on alcohol in his lifetime. Reframing diagnosis to open a patient’s eyes, while remaining empathic, is at the core of Banini’s practice.