When Chinyere Okpaleke posted a photo with her siblings to celebrate National Sibling Day on April 10, she never expected it to go viral.
“If I had to choose between The Okpaleke’s Vs The Kardashian’s...I would choose US every single time!” the hospitalist with Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Houston wrote alongside a split-screen photo of herself with her siblings and their accompanying titles.
Why titles? All the Okpalekes work in medicine.
“I know our parents and ancestors are beyond proud! We are exactly what their sacrifices were meant for!” the second part of Okpaleke's caption read.
The post, which has garnered more than 175,000 likes and over 6,000 comments, features from left to right: Okway Okpaleke, M.D., Chinelo Okpaleke, P.A., Nkiru Osefo, M.D., Ifeoma Okpaleke, N.P., Queenate Okpaleke, N.P. and Chinyere Okpaleke. A seventh sibling, Lillian Okpaleke, M.D., is not pictured.
For the Okpaleke children, the apples did not fall far from the tree. Father, Andrew Okpaleke, is a retired internal medicine physician, and mother, Celina Okpaleke, is a physician assistant who still practices doing in-home healthcare. Both parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria after their first child was born, but never anticipated all would follow their path in medicine.
"Each one of our stories are unique," Okpaleke — who goes by "Dr. Chi" — told TODAY Parents, adding that most of her siblings and parents still reside in Tampa, Florida, where they all grew up. "Our journey into the health field was led and encouraged by one another, especially our parents. We all shared the desire to help others in some shape or form, but we each decided on our specialities based on our own strengths and personalities. No sibling rivalry or competition, just sibling motivation and inspiration."
Dr. Chi told TODAY that the photos were taken over a year ago and were intended as a gift for her parents.
"I wanted to exemplify all the hard work and sacrifice that my parents have for us," she said of her parents. "This is what your sacrifice meant for us."
The Texas-based doctor admitted that she wasn't always cognizant of how unique it is to be a family full of people who work in medicine.
"I honestly didnt realize the impact or the message it sends to other people as we are going through it as a family," she shared. "To be an adult and look back and realize 'oh whoa, this is different. Not everybody does this.'"
She said the virality of the photo surprised her, because she's not very active on LinkedIn and prefers sharing to her Instagram page.
"I’m actually blown away. because I don’t really use it as often," she shared. "It was just something for National Siblings Day, and I checked back on it, three days later, it had over a million views. I was like 'oh I don’t know if I can respond to everybody,' because I’m used to just writing back to a few comments. It was impressive."
While users from around the world offered their congratulations by the thousands, others offered their support with humor.
“I know which family reunion I want to have a heart attack at!” one LinkedIn user wrote.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this meant everyone in the family was on the front line.
"As a family, we had to really pray and stay hopeful we will be okay," Dr. Chi said. "At the same time, we knew what our job was."
Despite all of their children entering the medical field, the Okpalekes remain humble.
"It’s never a conversation or bragging rights," Dr. Chi said. "They don’t really mention it. It’s more the people we’ve become as individuals and how loving and close we are to each other. It’s not the white coat or our job, they're just proud of who we’ve become as human beings."