She served as a supervising physician in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and worked long hours to prevent the spread of the pandemic in her beloved city, her only son Cyril says.
Toni, as she was known to family and friends, was born August 24, 1951 in Queens, New York. She attended St. Pascal Baylon School in Queens and graduated in 1968, and went on to Fisk University in Nashville, where she got her college degree in 1972.
She worked briefly at Harlem Hospital, where she met her husband, Dr. Francis Akita, in 1981, when they were both pediatric interns. The pair was married for almost 35 years.
“My mother, Dr. Antoinette Akita, she was a selfless, loving mother and she enjoyed what she did,” Cyril told CNN.
Pediatrics and immunology were two of her passions, which led her to briefly open a private practice in allergy and immunology in the late 1980s.
In 1992, she joined the New York City Health Department, a job which she kept until her retirement in 2015.
“When she smiled, she made you smile. When you were down, she made you feel better,” Dr. Akita’s daughter-in-law Jamelia told CNN. “Her personality just lit the world up.”
Dr. Akita had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, according to her son.
She was admitted to North Shore Hospital on Long Island, New York, when she began having breathing issues.
There, she tested positive for the coronavirus. Her husband, as well as the nurses who administered to her at home, also tested positive.
Dr. Akita’s husband recovered from the coronavirus and is still practicing in the neonatal unit at Columbia University.
“One of the nurses there was extremely kind enough to let me FaceTime with her pretty much every day up until she had passed. We prayed together,” Dr. Akita’s son Cyril said.
Dr. Akita died April 1. Her family planned a small funeral after her passing, as well as a large Zoom funeral with more than 200 participants.
“I miss her silliness, her love for singing and her hugs, and I think what I’m going to miss the most, I really would have loved for her to be there while I raise my daughter,” Cyril said.
And in memory of his mother, Cyril tells CNN that Dr. Akita’s first initial will part of his son’s middle name.