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A Future in Medicine 

UAlbany senior Buokem Ikwuazom is applying to medical schools, and wants to practice medicine in a diverse urban environment where the need is great. (Photo by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 5, 2016) – Buokem Ikwuazom, a senior who is now applying to medical schools, lived in the impoverished city of Ihiala, Nigeria, until he was 8.

“Food was extremely difficult to come by. My family members, at times, had to survive daily on two pieces of bread for each of us and water,” said Ikwuazom, president of the student group Doctors for Hope. With his mother, father, and two brothers, he left Nigeria, immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Far Rockaway, Queens.

Ikwuazom has not forgotten how the lack of medical resources, the spread of diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, and the lack of a safety net to provide food and shelter for those who needed it meant many lives were lost. A simple cold could turn into something much worse.

“As a young child at the age of 6, I was moved by the state of my community,” he said. “I believe this was my initial motivation for being interested in medicine.”

In high school, Ikwuazom fell in love with the sciences, and began volunteering in the brain injury unit of a hospital near his home. “When I began to see the unique patient-physician relationship built on trust and communication, it really left an impact,” he said. “Being able to have such great impact on the outcome of a patient’s well-being was something I wanted to have.”

On Nov. 17, Doctors for Hope and another student group, the Minority Association of Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Students, hosted a visit by several physicians of color, including Dr. Greg Threatte of Upstate Medical Center. The doctors talked about what it takes to become a physician and gave insight into the life of a medical student.

“Taking time out of their day to answer questions from these pre-med students of color really shows how committed they are to cultivating a strong relationship with minority students and others and helping to close those racial, ethnic and gender disparities that are very apparent and real in medicine,” Ikwuazom said.

He is also the founder and president of Students for Academic Success, which tutors students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. And he is vice president of the UAlbany chapter of MALIK fraternity.

Long-term, Ikwuazom wants to practice medicine in a diverse urban environment where the need is great.

“My interest lies in the field of neuroscience, specifically pediatric neurosurgery, as well as oncology, radiology and anesthesiology,” he said.

He has not yet decided where he wants to go to medical school yet, but will weigh financial options and the location of the medical college. “I will say this — it really isn’t where you go that defines you, but what you do when you get there,” Ikwuazom said.

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