He was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, but for Tajudeen “TJ” Soyoye, opening an urgent care clinic in Columbia in April was like coming home.
The former University of Missouri basketball star said that is exactly why he decided to come back, “because Columbia had become my second home.”
“Everybody knows me, I know them. This community supported me when I was in college and this is my chance to give back to the community,” Soyoye said.
Establishing his own medical practice with Columbia Urgent Care is the culmination of a lifelong dream for Soyoye, who said he has always wanted to be a physician — a passion inspired by watching his father, who was an herbalist, treat and care for his patients.
As he grew older and his talent with a basketball became apparent, he used that ability as his ticket to achieving his original goal.
Soyoye first came to Columbia via the Mizzou basketball team in 1999. He had been playing for the Nigerian national team and was heavily recruited by U.S. colleges, including offers from the University of Southern California and legendary Indiana coach Bobby Knight. But it was Norm Stewart who sold him on heading to the Midwest after two years at Meridian Community College in Mississippi.
“I loved Norm Stewart’s philosophy and thought it would be a good fit for me,” Soyoye said. “I looked at the university too, and what I was going to get out of the school — you see how the programs do, what happens to their former players, are they able to continue their education?”
It turned out to be the right choice — if he had it all to do again, Soyoye, “I would come back and pick Mizzou.”
After graduation, Soyoye went on to play professionally in Spain for a year and a half, but his education was still top-of-mind.
“Wherever I would go I would travel with two bags — one for my shoes and one for my books,” he said. “Even when I was playing professionally I was always studying because I knew my goal was eventually to become a doctor.”
Soyoye earned his medical degree in Antigua and did his clinical rotations in New York, Chicago and Atlanta before returning to Columbia to do his residency in family and community medicine at the University of Missouri. After graduating in 2011, he went to work in the emergency room at Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia.
It was a desire to get back to his original vision of caring for and spending time with patients the way his father did that motivated Soyoye to come back to Columbia and start his own urgent care practice.
“Sometimes when you work with a bigger organization you don’t get to have the kind of interaction you want to have with your patients — sometimes you only have 10 or 15 minutes with each patient” he said. “In private practice, you don’t have that pressure. I can call my patients when I want to know how they’re doing, are they getting better. That’s huge. That’s what I was missing.”
And when it came time to decide where to establish that patient-centric practice, Soyoye knew exactly where he wanted to be.
“I love the people here, I love the fun here, the college town, it just works better — and I’ve been all over, so I know,” Soyoye said. “You can’t go wrong with the people that make Columbia, how nice the people are.”
Those people now include Soyoye, his wife, Sukky, children Ifeoluwa, Imisioluwa and Iretioluwa as well as his mother- and father-in-law.
In addition to the people, Soyoye said he loves that Columbia is a vibrant, growing college town.
“Columbia is one of the most rapidly-developing cities in the country,” he said. “I’ve been to places that are static, but there’s always something about Columbia that is growing, and I love that about this place.”
That growth could eventually help him achieve another goal. If things go well with Columbia Urgent Care, which currently has a staff of 10, Soyoye said he would like to eventually add more locations.