Profiles / Rising S.T.E.M. Stars

Chigozirim Ekeke

As a child, my family’s slumber was often interrupted by 4:00 A.M phone calls. Although we were currently living in Atlanta, Georgia and were separated from our Nigerian relatives by several miles, many of their calls pertained to medical emergencies. On one occasion, my parents informed me that one of my cousins had died due to a complication during a surgical procedure. Immediately, I was filled with anger and confusion and wished to swap my cousin’s pain with my own wellbeing. It was then, at the young age of seven, that I knew that I wanted to become a force for healing the sick. The only fact I knew about physicians was that science is at the core of what they do. I ventured to my local library to check out books, which pertained to the human body. Although, I did not comprehend a single figure within these texts and I am confident that the librarian gave me a puzzled look as she saw me check out scientific literature that transcended beyond the scope of 3rd and 4th grade science. My yearning to comprehend the information contained within these books, further increased my desire to become a doctor.

As I matured, my volunteering experiences, including my time at the Living Personal Care Home in Atlanta, Georgia, also strengthened my interest in medicine. At the age of fifteen I volunteered there to work with clients who suffered from mental illnesses, ranging from Schizophrenia to Bipolar disorder. I have learned many lessons that I am confident will not only make me a successful medical student, but also an effective medical practitioner. One of the earliest and hardest lessons I learned was that people everywhere, and not just those in Nigeria, often lack the access and necessary resources to receive proper medical assistance. Another important instance occurred in 2008, when I returned to do my usual summer volunteer work. What had started out as a tranquil Saturday afternoon soon became characterized by one of chaos. As a client collapsed into a dolorous tirade, the assisting staff member succumbed to panic. I knew that I needed to take initiative in order to calm the client. In that moment, I learned to quickly survey a situation, to develop a course of action, and to implement it. This experience, as well as others that I have had there, have enhanced my skill set as a prospective physician, by teaching me first-hand about level-headedness and leadership.

Along with these experiences, my course work and engagement with scientific research have served as peepholes to the world of medicine and propelled my aspirations to become a physician. In working with post-doctorates of biochemistry, I contemplated enzymology and how to apply it’s concepts to benefit the human body. In both instances, I grappled with scientific literature in order to become more knowledgeable about my subject matter and to satisfy my intellectual curiosity about how my course work and research project correlated with the field of medicine. Research has not only allowed me to apply classroom material in a practical setting, but it has also helped me to develop skills, such as perseverance, steadfastness, and stress management that comes with participating in multiple projects.

As I have transitioned from being an OSU undergraduate to a medical student at the OSU College of Medicine, my outlook on medicine has definitely changed, as I began take on the program’s rigorous coursework and continue to grow as a student leader on campus. As a member of Student Council and Student National Medical Association (SNMA), I have dedicated my time towards addressing health care disparities amongst the underserved communities and I am in communication with the College of Medicine’s leadership as to how the school can improve the instructing my peers and making them more knowledgeable of the schism in healthcare treatment across class, race, and ethnic background.

As a student leader on OSU’s campus, in particularly the College of Medicine, it is pertinent that I raise awareness as to how medicine does not benefit everyone equally, despite the advancement of research, medical practice and medical technology. In working with student groups and communicating with the faculty leaders at the College of Medicine, I have been able to enhance my leadership ability and utilize resources that would help my peers gain an appreciation of medicine from not only an academic standpoint but from a social standpoint as it pertains to the healthcare service within the minority communities.

Although my interest in becoming a doctor was generated many years ago by a 4:00 A.M phone call about the death of a cousin, it has been my experiences that have continued to mold and prepare me to meet not only the demands of medical school, but also the medical profession. My participation in all of these activities has only deepened my commitment to the field.

As a current medical student, medical school has allowed me to gain further experience and training that will ultimately enable me to fulfill my life’s goal of helping people achieve one of the most desired aspects of life—good health.