Embracing Global Health
Chioma Enweasor never thought her move from her home country of Nigeria to the United States was a big deal until much later in life.
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"I remember my parents being nervous and holding on to my arm and saying, 'We're moving to America,' and I was like, 'Okay,'" said Enweasor, 23, of Ontario, Calif., who moved to the United States when she was 7-years-old. "It was much easier on me than it was on them.
"But whenever I think about it now, I think about how much guts it took for my parents to pick up everything they knew and move for their children, for their dreams."
It's that resiliency in the face of adversity, her parents' sacrifice for her future that empowered Enweasor to move from southern California to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor as member of the Weill Cornell Medical College Class of 2016.
|Weill Cornell Medical College first-year student Chioma Enweasor
Photo credit: Carlos Rene Perez
"I'm standing for them as much as they are always standing for me," she said. "I think they gave me the strength to pick up everything and move to New York, and they are going to give me the strength to face amino acids and everything from there."
In the Igbo culture, people aspire to be engineers, doctors or lawyers. Enweasor chose to be a doctor, and it was a path to which she aspired for much of her education.
But while pursuing a degree in anthropology at Pomona College, she strayed from her chosen path. Maybe she should go into teaching, she thought.
As a junior, she was admitted as a fellow for Weill Cornell's Travelers Summer Research Program, which aims to engage people from groups under-represented in medicine into the profession. Not only did it reinforce her passion for medicine, but it led her back to Weill Cornell for her medical education.
"I wanted a place that would challenge me but at the same time nurture my spirit," she said. "I think Weill Cornell does a great job with that."
And she did become a teacher, in a sense, taking two years off after college to work as a HealthCorps coordinator. She taught high school students in underserved communities about health and organized other health awareness activities.
This past summer, Enweasor and her family traveled back to Nigeria. She visited her father's village and saw her grandparents' medicinal straw hut. There's one clinic 20 minutes away, but the health care provided there is less than stellar.
"Just going back to Nigeria made sense of every sacrifice my parents made for me to be here," she said.
When it comes to her future in medicine, Enweasor is keeping her options open. But she's leaning toward global health to help people in her native country.
"There are so many people who sacrificed for me to be here that there needs to be better than one clinic that's shoddy and 20 minutes away," she said. "Visiting Nigeria yanked me to an idea of global health that I didn't see coming."