Physician Assistant Studies student honored as 2013 NCAA Woman of the Year

By Lin Lofley

Ifeatu Okafor, a first-year UT Southwestern School of Health Professions student in the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, has been named the 2013 NCAA Woman of the Year.

Ms. Okafor, a magna cum laude graduate of Texas Tech University – with degrees in biology and exercise science – accepted the award Oct. 20 in Indianapolis at a banquet celebrating women athletes of the NCAA.

Ifeatu Okafor
Ifeatu Okafor in a class at UT Southwestern School of Health Professions.

The Houston native, a graduate of Westbury High School, was an All-Big 12 Conference track athlete four years in college, excelling in the shot put. She was twice selected for All-American recognition and is the first winner of the award from a Big 12 institution.

She boarded an early flight in Indianapolis to be back in Dallas for a major exam in cardiology the day after the banquet. In an email sent immediately after the ceremony to Dr. Eugene Jones, Chairman of Physician Assistant Studies, she wrote: “Thank you all so much for all of your support. I truly appreciate all of you making this moment happen!”

Dr. Jones said, “Ify Okafor’s professional approach to everything she does was exemplified by her concern about getting back to campus in time for a Monday examination following the Sunday evening award ceremony. She is an exceptionally remarkable person who will apply her dedication and work ethic where we need it most: as a health care provider to those in need.”

Citing a heavy course load and the pending examinations – there’s another major test on Oct. 23 in pathology – Ms. Okafor considered staying in Dallas rather than attending the event.

“But the people I know from Texas Tech really wanted me to make it, and the School of Health Professions did as well,” she said.”I knew this was a big deal, and the emails and letters I have received are great. No one from Texas Tech had ever won the award.”

Ifeatu Okafor Shot Put
Ifeatu Okafor throws the shot put during a track meet at Texas Tech.

Ms. Okafor served for four years on the Texas Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was president of the group during the 2012-2013 academic year. She also was Tech’s student-athlete as a representative to the Big 12 conference. On the track, she won the Big 12 outdoor shot put competition in 2011 and earned first team All-American honors that season. She currently holds five of the top 10 marks in school history in the event.

“Of all of the athletes I have coached, Ifeatu exemplifies what it means to be a true student-athlete and an All-American,” Texas Tech head track and field coach Wes Kittley said. “Her commitment to academics, community service and leadership are remarkable.”

At Tech, Ms. Okafor regularly volunteered with Special Olympics, the local YWCA, a nearby hospital, and a local food bank.

Sunday’s ceremony marked the 23rd in the history of the award. The NCAA recognized the top 30 selections, identified from 140 conference nominees, before honoring the nine finalists.