Taofeek Kunle Owonikoko (1968 -)

Taofeek Kunle Owonikoko portrait against plain background
Taofeek Kunle Owonikoko, ca. 2021
Courtesy University of Pittsburgh

Taofeek Kunle Owonikoko, a physician-scientist, was born in 1968 in Iseyin, Oyo, Nigeria. He attended elementary and high school in Oyo where his academic discipline was directed by his father, a Yoruba businessman, to be either a physician or an Islamic cleric. Owonikoko is the third of ten children.

In 1985, Owonikoko matriculated at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1991. And the following year, in 1992, he completed an Internship at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital. From 1995 to 1998, he was in Residency in Anatomic Pathology at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria. Despite not knowing the language, he traveled to Germany on an international training grant award from the German Academic Exchange Program. Upon arriving, he studied Conversational German for four months at the Goethe Institute to assist with his studies in the language. Two years later, in 2000, Owonikoko earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany. His dissertation was titled “Genetische Heterogenität in Adenokarzinomen des Ösophagus (Genetic heterogeneity in esophageal adenocarcinoma).”

Owonikoko then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2001, where he worked in molecular imaging, followed by a residency in internal medicine at Drexel University in 2005. In addition, he was a Fellow in Hematology and Medical Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medicine Center (UPMC) in 2008. Owonikoko was designated as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar in the Georgia Cancer Coalition in 2008. That year he joined Emory University as an Associate Professor.

In 2014, Owonikoko received a Master of Science degree in Clinical Research from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2016, he was presented with a National Cancer Institute Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award.

In 2017, Owonikoko became Professor and Chairman for Faculty Development at the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. His research considers small-cell lung cancer. And he was a 2019 Emory University Woodruff Leadership Academy Fellow.

Dr. Taofeek Kunle Owonikoko has contributed to many peer-reviewed journals and coauthored more than 220 publications. He was a quest editor for the Journal of Thoracic Disease, Volume 10, Supplement 3 (February 2018), where he coauthored “Immunotherapy of lung cancer.”

In 2021, Owonikoko was appointed Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the Department of Medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also served as Associate Director for Translational Research and co-leader of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at Hillman.

Dr. Taofeek Kunle Owonikoko is married to Olufunmike Owonikoko, a social worker who was born in Oyo, Nigeria and was reared in Düsseldorf, Germany. They have three children.