Dr Omalu is a Nigerian doctor and forensic neuropathologist based in the United States.
On Saturday he was awarded with the American Medical Association (AMA)’s Highest Honor for his unprecedented health discovery. He received the Distinguished Service Award during the opening session of the 2016 AMA Interim Meeting, in Orlando, Florida.
The merit award recognizes a member of the AMA for exceptional service in the science and art of medicine. Dr Bennet has been a member of the AMA for 20 years now.
Dr Bennet Omalu discovered the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in diseased NFL players in 2002.
CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic sub-concussive hits to the head- CTE Centre, Boston University.
“When I looked at his brain and he had diffuse amyloid plaques everywhere and there were no neuritic plaques … I took the slides home with me.
“I spent six months with those slides. I saw tau randomly situated, and not reminiscent of any other dementia that I knew. My first reaction, when I went to the literature, was that I expected to find previous reports like this, but I didn’t find even one.”
The disease is usually common with people who experience repeated blows on their heads such as boxers and NFL players.
“Dr Omalu initially thought the league would be pleased to learn of his findings, but when they were presented at an NFL meeting on concussions in 2007, they were dismissed, and the league—through lawyers, physicians and other experts—went on to mount a coordinated effort to discredit Dr Omalu and his research.”- AMA.
After much denial, the NFL finally acknowledged the veracity of his finding in 2009. They publicly admitted there was a link between concussions sustained in football and CTE.
Bennet studied Medicine in Nigeria before he left for the United States. In 2015 he became a United States citizen.
Benet is the chief medical examiner for the San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office in California; and a clinical associate professor in the University of California, Davis, Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Dr Omalu was the inspiration behind the Oscar nominated movie – Concussion. Will Smith played the role of the Nigerian doctor in the movie.