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UAlbany Graduates Share Learned Knowledge to Improve Medical Care Abroad

From left, Umaru Barrie and Temitope Omoladun graduate from UAlbany after stellar academic performance, extensive community service work, and having led a May 5 rally to raise awareness about the kidnapping of more than 230 Nigerian schoolgirls. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)  

When they cross the stage at the University at Albany Commencement on May 18, seniors Temitope [pronounced Tem-ee-to-pay] Omoladun and Umaru Barrie will be one step closer to fulfilling their dreams. Omoladun, of Staten Island, and Barrie, of Harlem, have pages and pages of community engagement experience in their profiles, driven by a dedication to justice and giving back to the community. Both place a high premium on the value of their education at UAlbany.

“When I arrived in the U.S. at the age of 9, I was blown away by the vast array of opportunities available to me,” said Omoladun, who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, where some classmates had to quit school to help provide for their family members. “I have had educational opportunities, as well as access to 24-hour electricity, running water, and everything else that a young immigrant from an impoverished country could ever imagine.”

Her classmate, Umaru Barrie, who is an Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) student, shares this awareness. Barrie was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. After civil war broke out in 1992, his family emigrated to Guinea as refugees. Ten years later, they moved to America.

“It wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy for us to deal with financial struggles,” he said. “My parents always told my siblings and me that they didn’t have much to give us, but what they could expose us to was a good education so that we could have a better life.”

Barrie has taken this advice to heart. “My parents have also made us realize that we can accomplish anything that we want and that growing up in a low-income neighborhood doesn’t have to deter us from becoming what we dream to be.”

Barrie founded the UAlbany student club, Sankofa Africa Organization, and Omoladun has served as vice president. The organization raises awareness regarding issues in modern-day Africa. “Sankofa” essentially means the need to look back on the past in order to build a successful future. Sankofa Africa has worked with The Giving Circle, New Sudan Jonglei Orphans Foundation, Islamic Relief USA, and the World Food Program to address local and global issues.

Through Sankofa Africa, both helped out with the Schoharie County cleanup after Hurricane Irene. Barrie also helped initiate Project Sandy and delivered food and supplies to NYC after Superstorm Sandy. Most recently, they led a rally May 5 to bring attention to the abduction of more than 230 schoolgirls in Nigeria.

The students are science majors; Omoladun in biology and Barrie, human biology and chemistry. Both were awarded the 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, among 11 University at Albany students to be so honored. And both have been recognized with the President’s Award for Leadership -- The Justice Award and the Outstanding Senior Award.

Barrie was active in the “I am Trayvon Martin Campaign,” and the “Hope for Syria Campaign,” through MALIK Fraternity. He also founded the UAlbany Chapter of Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) to enrich the academic and professional development of underrepresented minority pre-medical and pre-health students. Both Barrie and Omoladun were active in the “Break the Silence: Occupy Congo Campaign.” As a Resident Assistant, Omoladun has also initiated various awareness programs in the residence halls, such as her AIDS Fundraiser and Disability Awareness campaign.

Barrie will take a gap year to work with City Year Miami, assisting at-risk students in Miami-Dade County, Florida, to help students stay in school. After that, he plans to earn an M.D./Ph.D., with his first choice being Johns Hopkins.  His goal is to become a neurosurgeon and biomedical researcher working to stem the tide of infectious diseases either in the U.S. or abroad.

“Through my profession, I hope to find solutions to the medical ailments afflicting members of our society,” said Barrie.

Omoladun will also take a gap year: she will work with City Year Oklahoma. After that, she plans to earn an M.D./M.P.H. Her first choice is Mount Sinai in Manhattan. Long-term, she wants to provide medical care in developing countries, through an organization like Doctors Without Borders, and also wants to focus on empowering women globally through health, education, and community action.

“I truly believe equality in various sectors is a human right for all which is why giving back is an integral part of my passion to promote change in our society,” Omoladun said.

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