Meet Dr. Mina Okafor, the Nigerian surgeon on the Fox medical drama “The Resident”

Mina Okafor

It’s been three days since the season finale of The Resident aired, and I can’t stop thinking about the many ways it was pulse-pounding. The finale levelled out an uneven freshman season, strengthened its characters and introduced more stakes. And the show gave us Dr. Mina Okafor, whose name is lazily Americanised as Horrkefer by her colleagues and patients at Chastain Park Memorial Hospital.

I have long since forgiven this television faux pas, perhaps because I have grown accustomed to how frequently Dr Okafor’s name is mangled. Played by the brilliant Guyanese actress Shaunette Renée Wilson, who has racked up a sizeable number of film and TV appearances including featuring as a member of the Dora Milaje in Black Panther, The Resident feels ostensibly racially inclusive.

Although there’s Dr. Devon Pravon, a new resident doctor we see in the pilot episode and played by Indian-American actor Manish Dayal, Dr. Okafor is almost arresting at first sight. Aesthetically, she’s exquisitely dark and tall, and in a show swinging with cosmetic blonde hair, Dr. Okafor’s buzz cut broadens the palate. As a resident surgeon, she’s ethically upright and competently skillful, and a no-nonsense character with sleek lines. Chastain Park Memorial Hospital is helmed by the moneyed and ethically corrupt chief surgeon Dr. Randolph Bell (Bruce Greenwood), and sometimes Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry), the hot and coolly rebellious senior resident doctor who wants to take down Dr. Bell by stopping his continuous malfeasance.

The hospital has acquired a one-of-a-kind, surgical technology nicknamed as “The Hand of God,” a machine thought to eliminate human error and be the most effective means of doing surgery. Dr. Okafor is the only one with the specialised knowledge in operating the cool tech, which looks like something that Marvel’s Tony Stark would be proud of.

The first thing Dr. Okafor deals with, early on in the season, is workplace patriarchal sexism, which I found hugely resonating. When it came to the first actual surgery using the tech, Dr. Bell insists he should be the one to conduct it, even though he’s never operated the device before. He threatens not to write Dr. Okafor’s recommendation letter for her visa if she doesn’t comply, and then goes ahead to reel a bad statistic about Nigeria to shame her. I was hurt. I want to reach it into my TV and get physical, you know, but Dr. Okafor shrugs it off.

In episode 3, and in a bar with colleagues, a man approaches her and later asks what she does for a living. “I work at the hospital nearby,” she says, nursing her drink. “Oh, you are nurse.” the man quips. A pause. “No. I’m a surgeon,” Dr. Okafor corrects, and then leaves him to contemplate the fallout of his assumption. At a medical fundraising party, Dr. Okafor ditches hospital garb for a figure-accentuating yellow dinner gown, which stuns the guests in her proximity. It’s a compelling moment, and yet carries a racial undertone, as if the guests are saying omg you are so black and mannish and we didn’t expect you to look this pretty!

Dr. Okafor is so professional at her job, tidily compartmentalising her private life from hospital business until heart surgery patient Micah Stevens comes along. It’s a patient-to-heartthrob situation that I didn’t see coming, beginning with a casual coffee date and a sexual intercourse that peaked with the show’s finale. Last week, Fox renewed The Resident for a second season, during television’s habitual spate of renewals and cancellations. Though the medical drama has polarised critics, with comparisons to other hospital shows like the everlasting Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor, The Resident is creating its own spark in a flooded television market and characters like Dr. Okafor makes it enjoyable.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.