May 10, 2017

Countdown to Commencement: Future Doctor Chukuemeka Ogudu—from Nigeria to America

From left, Chukuemeka Ogudu and Kory Hamane (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

By Kory Hamane*

How far would you go to provide a better life for your family or your country?

Chukuemeka Ogudu or, as his friends know him, Emeka, moved to America to become a doctor. He pursued his master’s degree in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at USC with the goals of financially providing for his family and of improving health care in his hometown in Nigeria.

Ogudu was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where he lived for nine years. Looking for better opportunities for Ogudu and his three brothers, his parents moved to London for three years. Since then, becoming a doctor has been on Ogudu’s mind.

“I noticed that a lot of the common diseases in the UK are looked at as no big deal, because they can be treated with ease,” Ogudu said. “And if one were to catch these same diseases in Nigeria, then they would probably die, because they simply don’t have the doctors to take care of them.”

Due to his father’s job as part of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Ogudu and his family moved back to Nigeria for two additional years. However, because of the lack of educational opportunities in Nigeria, they moved in with extended family in Montreal, Canada, where they resided for three years.

Once he completed high school, Ogudu traveled to the United States by himself in order to attend Texas Tech University, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology and shadowed different doctors every year. During the summer after his sophomore year, Ogudu traveled to Minnesota, where he spent three months learning more than he could imagine from an emergency room physician.

“I saw everything during that summer in terms of medicine,” he said. “I saw something as small as someone getting a few stitches to something as big as dealing with a head trauma from a car accident. Simply incredible.”

After he graduates with his master’s degree in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at USC, Ogudu plans to pursue a medical degree and complete his residency before moving back to Nigeria.

“I miss my aunts and uncles back in Nigeria,” he said. “The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that I have the opportunity to provide a better life for them and to provide better health care for the people of Nigeria when I become a doctor.”

*The author of this article, Kory Hamane, is also graduating from the master’s program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.