Ekene Nwajei (BSc '22) graduated from Laurier's Health Sciences program in 2022 and was recently awarded a prestigious research scholarship at the University of Toronto.
Tell us about the Edwards Life Sciences & Temerty Faculty of Medicine & St. Michael's Hospital Cardiac Surgery Black and Indigenous Summer Research Scholarship, and what it means to you to receive this award.
The Edwards Life Sciences & Temerty Faculty of Medicine & St. Michael's Hospital Cardiac Surgery Black and Indigenous Summer Research Scholarship, spearheaded by Dr. Bobby Yanagawa, Program Director and Associate Professor within the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Toronto, holds a special place in my journey. It marks a pivotal moment as my first official accolade within the realm of cardiac surgery. The award represents not only a personal achievement, but also an embodiment of the commitment to diversity and inclusivity in medicine. This scholarship alleviated the financial pressures associated with my medical education and opened doors to unparalleled opportunities for collaboration with luminaries in the field of cardiac surgery. Dr. Subodh Verma, a nationally renowned expert, has extended his guidance and mentorship. His unwavering support has not only enriched my understanding of the field but continues to illuminate the path toward my aspiration of becoming a cardiac surgeon. This scholarship has not only bolstered my academic pursuits, but has also reinforced my dedication to advancing the field of cardiac surgery while promoting diversity and excellence in medicine.
What made you want to specialize in cardiac surgery?
Cardiac disease stands as the foremost global cause of mortality, a fact that ignites my passion for affecting change in this field. Furthermore, the realm of cardiovascular (CV) surgery has consistently captivated my focus with its distinctive approach to addressing multifaceted health challenges. The intricacies of CV surgery, rooted in the domain of cardiovascular physiology, immediately resonated with me as an avenue where my passion for anatomy converges with my unwavering commitment to enhancing the lives of patients. What elevates my enthusiasm even further is the ever-evolving nature of this field. Constantly propelled by innovative technologies and groundbreaking research, cardiovascular surgery has an ever-promising future. I am profoundly driven to be a part of this progress, dedicated to contributing my knowledge and skills to the betterment of the countless patients who may one day require the transformative impact of cardiac surgery.
What about your Laurier experience has prepared you for where you are right now and where you hope to be in the future?
Laurier has laid a robust academic foundation upon which I have built my medical education. Within the Health Sciences program, I found myself not only equipped with essential study techniques and test-taking strategies, but also a comprehensive grasp of diverse scientific topics. This well-rounded preparation has proven invaluable as I navigate the rigors of medical school, rendering the path considerably more manageable. Beyond the academic realm, Laurier provided me with an exceptional support network. Both faculty members and fellow students played pivotal roles in my journey, consistently reinforcing my belief in the power of perseverance. Their encouragement has instilled in me the unwavering conviction that I can surmount any challenge, a belief I hold dear and that continues to guide me towards my aspiration of becoming a cardiac surgeon. In essence, Laurier's contributions to my academic and personal growth have been instrumental, propelling me forward on my path towards a future in cardiac surgery.
What message do you have for students thinking about pursuing an education or a career in medicine?
The field of medicine is amazing. While it undeniably presents a demanding and arduous path, the rewards and gratification it offers are immeasurable. To those who have an interest in medicine, I wholeheartedly encourage you to not just endure the journey, but to embrace it. Seek out your unique way of leaving an indelible impact. Moreover, I implore aspiring individuals to shield themselves from doubt that can assail from various avenues—be it the constant barrage of discouraging statistics, the pressures of social media, or the influence of peers who may inadvertently sow seeds of doubt. In such moments of uncertainty, it is paramount to tether yourself to your "why." If your motivation for pursuing this career is genuine and deeply rooted, your "why" becomes a source of solace and an unwavering source of motivation during the most trying times. When your "why" remains in sharp focus, your self-belief remains resolute. To keep in focus one’s "why" is my greatest piece of advice I have to any ambitious individual seeking to make an impact in any field.
What is your favourite Laurier memory?
Looking ahead, my aspiration is to become a professor of heart surgery, and Laurier has been pivotal in shaping me for this future teaching role by providing me with valuable exposure to the world of education. One of my most cherished memories from Laurier revolves around my involvement in Supplemental Instruction (SI). Essentially, SI served as a supplementary learning platform designed to support students in historically challenging courses. My journey with SI began in my second year and continued until my graduation. During this time, I had the privilege of leading several sessions, often in front of sizable audiences exceeding 450 students, where I stood alone at the front of a lecture hall, serving as both guide and mentor. This experience proved to be an extraordinary test of my knowledge and teaching acumen, a transformative opportunity for honing my pedagogical skills, and it equipped me with the confidence to address large gatherings without trepidation. This particular memory holds a special place in my heart, not only because it provided a glimpse into my envisioned career as a professor, but also because it introduced me to a remarkable cast of individuals during my time as an instructor at Laurier. Many of these individuals have gone on to achieve remarkable feats in their respective fields. Knowing that teaching, a profound passion of mine, contributed to their journey, makes this memory my most cherished one from my time at Laurier.
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