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Omalu and Will Smith at the movie's premiere last week

Bennet Omalu and “Concussion”

The film about Nigerian doctor Bennet Omalu, starring Will Smith, premiered on Tuesday last week in Hollywood.

Omalu, a forensic pathologist, was working in Pittsburgh when he discovered the tragic toll American football had taken on the brain of the late Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster and other gridiron football pros.

The late Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers
The late Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Omalu fought against attempts by the National Football League (NFL) to suppress his findings on brain damage suffered by players. He said in an interview in 2013: “So I was excited. I thought the football industry would be happy with our new discovery. I thought naively that discovery of new information, unravelling new information, redefining concepts, I thought the football industry would embrace it — again, about my business experience — utilise it, turn it into some type of utility, some type of utility function to enhance the game.”

Will Smith and Bennet Omalu on the set of the movie
Will Smith and Bennet Omalu on the set of the movie

Instead they disparaged him: “Some of them actually said that I’m attacking the American way of life. ‘How dare you, a foreigner like you from Nigeria? What is Nigeria known for, the eighth most corrupt country in the world? Who are you? Who do you think you are to come to tell us how to live our lives?’”

Watch a trailer of the movie:

Omalu comes from Enugwu-Ukwu in Anambra State and was raised in Enugu. He attended Federal Government College Enugu and then studied medicine at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC). He left Nigeria for the US in 1994.

He is currently the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California and is a professor in the University of California, Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He lives in Lodi, California with his wife and two children.

Omalu speaks at the premiere of the movie:

His younger sister Miriam was the best graduating law student from UNEC in 1992 with a First Class and also the best graduating student in Law School in 1993 with another First Class. She is currently the company secretary of SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company Plc in Nigeria and is married to Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).

The film will be released in the US on Christmas Day.

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