Personality: Utibe O. Bassey

Spotlight on honorary chair of Centennial American Heart Association 2024 Richmond Heart Ball

2/29/2024, 6 p.m.
Nigerian-born Utibe O. Bassey grew up in Connecticut and has family scattered far and wide, but none in Virginia. When …

Nigerian-born Utibe O. Bassey grew up in Connecticut and has family scattered far and wide, but none in Virginia.

When she moved to Richmond in the summer of 2020 for a job with Dominion Energy, she was all alone and the pandemic was raging.

Fortunately, neither situation lasted too long.

Ms. Bassey’s adventurous nature and love of travel and people drove her to explore and learn more about her new hometown, both physically and virtually.

“Richmond has such a rich history — good and bad,” Ms. Bassey said in a recent telephone interview. “There are so many ways to learn about the depth of those historical places.”

Becoming involved with the American Heart Association — Virginia (AHA) about 18 months ago is one way she has worked to become familiar with Richmond’s volunteer community.

She joined as a member of the Executive Leadership Team for AHA’s Richmond Heart Ball. After stepping in as chair last year, she will serve as honorary chair this year.

The nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke is celebrating its centennial this year. Ms. Bassey said AHA’s work in Richmond — by funding local research, raising awareness and dealing with the practical aspects of heart health — is helping Richmonders to live longer, healthier lives.

Another reason she was drawn to working with the organization was the difference AHA can make in underserved communities.

“They were very open and welcoming to me as a Black woman,” Ms. Bassey said. “And they don’t dance around the fact there are inequities.”

AHA’s website notes that about 90% of people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die, and that Black Americans are most likely to have those kinds of episodes.

Administering CPR as soon as possible following a cardiac arrest can double or even triple the chance of survival.

She spoke of an incident about a year ago when a Dominion Energy work colleague collapsed during an evacuation drill. The worker was having a cardiac event and, fortunately, someone was able to perform CPR. The outcome was a good one, but it made Ms. Bassey realize that she did not know what to do in that situation.

She has since become CPR-certified and adds that AHA’s “Nation of Lifesavers” campaign this year aims to encourage everyone to become CPR/AED certified and be prepared to save a life.

That kind of commitment to helping others is important to Ms. Bassey.

She has been greatly influenced by the Nigerian architect and philanthropist Olajumoke Adenowo, whose Awesome Treasures Foundation promotes business training and leadership development.

“[Olajumoke Adenowo] models this idea that wherever you are, you should add value and wherever you see a need, you should serve,” Ms. Bassey said.

She plans to self-publish her first book later this year.

“LOVE as a KPI” will address love, not as a feeling, but as an outcome of businesses prioritizing people. Ms. Bassey said that if companies value their employees and customers, they should measure key performance indicators beyond revenue and profits and look at how they leave people feeling at the end of the day.

“People want to be seen and heard,” Ms. Bassey said. “AHA plays a role in helping everyone see each other as whole human beings, not just statistics. There are things we all can do. You can donate or you can lean into learning CPR. Everyone can make a difference.”

Meet a servant leader wit a servant’s heart and this week’s Personality, Utibe O. Bassey:

Volunteer position: Chair, Heart of Richmond, American Heart Association and honorary chair of 2024 Richmond Heart Ball.

Occupation: Vice president of customer experience, Dominion Energy.

Date and place of birth: Dec. 27 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Where I live now: Richmond.

Education: management information systems, Central Connecticut State University; MBA, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

American Heart Association is: An organization dedicated to “shining a powerful light on heart disease, its treatment and its prevention.” AHA supports all levels — be it funding research to grassroots awareness of causes, drivers and factors impacting cardiovascular health) to actual “hands-on” skill building.

Why this organization is meaningful to me: The dedication, focus and consistency are some of the reasons — it is not easy to do this work consistently for a century. But far beyond that are the outcomes the American Heart Association drives. I love that the organization doesn’t just deal with research but also with practical aspects of heart health. I love the “no stone left unturned” approach.

Why I accepted the position as honorary chair of the Centennial American Heart Association Richmond Heart Ball: I am so proud to have the opportunity to positively impact health outcomes in underserved communities. While many recognize the American Heart Association as a national organization, they fund local research and help our neighbors right here in Richmond live longer, healthier lives.

No. 1 goal as honorary chair: To make a difference, big or small … to raise awareness of the fact that heart disease touches all lives in our community.

Why I hope this is a hot ticket: While tickets are not being sold this year for the Richmond Heart Ball, we are always looking for more organizations and individuals to join in the fight against heart disease. To see how you or your organization can support this important work, visit heart.org/RVAHeartBall.

How the event will benefit Richmonders: We know that heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of all Americans. Locally, these diseases claim nearly 35,000 lives each year. The funds raised are to help improve health outcomes in Central Virginia so that we see that number lessen over time.

Details of Richmond Heart Ball: Saturday, April 27, at Main Street Station.

How I start the day: In prayer, in worship, reading and in the gym. Mind, soul, spirit and body.

Three words that best describe me: Purposeful, joie-de-vivre, humorous.

Best late-night snack: Flour Crackers or Plantain Chips. I could go on, actually. I’m a snacker.

My musical playlist: Very diverse and relatively obscure. Less than a 1% chance it will have anything currently on contemporary radio. But I’m a music person. I love music very much.

I love to: Travel, but not to say I traveled. I love to wander around new cities (preferably on foot) and immerse myself in other peoples’ way of “normal” life. I am motivated (in general) by learning and travel helps me learn, helps me connect with others and keeps me grounded.

A quote that inspires me: “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: My mom, Stella Bassey, is one of the most resourceful and resilient people I know. From her example, I have learned, “There’s ALWAYS a way forward.” Even if you think you’ve hit a wall, look again. There’s a crack in that wall.

The person who influenced me the most: A woman named Olajumoke Adenowo. She lives out a commitment to service, leadership, excellence, purpose and impact like I have never seen otherwise.

Book that influenced me the most: There’s a book I’m reading now, “How to Know a Person” by David Brooks that’s been really impactful so far.

Next goal: Finalize and publish my first book, “LOVE as a KPI,” this year.