Hometown: Berrien Springs, Mich.
Undergraduate: BS - University of Michigan
Can you tell me a little about yourself before you came to Drexel?
I was born in Nakuru and grew up in a small rural town in Michigan called Berrien Springs. I attended the University of Michigan for my undergraduate degrees, where I got two Bachelor of Science degrees; one in neuroscience and another in music. After my undergraduate experience, I moved to New York City where I worked as a 4th-grade math and English teacher. One of my greatest honors is that 28 people in this world know me as Ms. Ochieng, their 4th-grade teacher.
When did you know that you wanted to go into medicine?
It was a spring day, I was at the pediatric clinic where I had been shadowing. Many of the patients were coming in for newborn check-ups, medication refill appointments and yearly physicals. It was the same day-to-day I had been privileged to experience for the past two weeks. The physician and I went in to do a follow-up with a patient. At this point, I was very comfortable using my social skills talking with patients and their families. During the conversation, I learned that the reason for the check-up was for the patient's osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease of which I had previous knowledge. Despite his struggles and the pain, he had gone through, a smile of courage and compassion remained on his face. A smile and a bond over the University of Michigan gave me courage, joy, and motivation to solidify my want to pursue a career as a physician.
Why did you choose to apply to Drexel’s Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) program?
After teaching for a year, I knew I was not ready in various aspects to apply for medical school. I began researching programs that would help me grow academically, personally and mentally. When I found Drexel’s IHS program, I knew I found a program that was fitting for me and my goals. I was especially enticed by their classes offered in the sciences and sociological topics within medicine.
How is the program going so far?
Coming into this program, I had created various goals. I wanted to achieve, some of them almost impossible to achieve. With help from my advisors, I have received attainable and honest advice about what I need to do to achieve my personal goals. My professors have challenged me through coursework and exams. Even with rigorous course work I have achieved academic goals and have become a better learner. I have created friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I am hopeful and excited for the day when I will get to work within the field of medicine with my peers as health professionals.
Have you been involved with any organizations or in any community service experiences since entering the program?
I have gotten to serve with the Rock to the Future organization as a music tutor. During my time I worked with one student as a music tutor. My student decided to start learning how to play the piano. She had previous exposure to music through her family and music classes at school, but she was brand new to playing the piano. When we started our tutoring session, I asked my student why she wanted to learn to play the piano. She told me that she wants to be able to play any song by ear.
With this goal in mind considering her age, being an eighth-grader, my goal was for her by the end of this semester to have the big 3 techniques of piano playing down. Those three techniques are being able to read notes, knowing what fingers to use when, and being able to follow rhythm and count. It took all semester, but we were able to accomplish all three by the very last week together. While accomplishing these three goals, we were able to expand her repertoire by learning Fur Elise by Bach, Grenade by Bruno Mars, and Clocks by Coldplay. The cherry on top of our experience was that we were able to have fun making music and learning more about ourselves and the world we live in through music. We were able to do that from conversations about challenges we both face as a pianist, especially when it came to fingering and the frustrations, we face learning new concepts. We were able to learn more about the world we live in during Black History Month when we explored the Black national anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Reading about the origins of that piece and why it was chosen as the Black national anthem. The amazing thing about all of this is we were able to do it all through zoom.
Can you tell me about any research you have been doing?
Currently, I am the primary investigator on my research team. We are researching the “Impact of Peripheral Arterial Disease and Amputations on Kidney Transplant Outcomes.” Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) commonly have comorbidities that put them at a higher risk of having complications after kidney transplantation. Vascular disease is particularly common among ESRD patients. However, the association of previous lower-extremity amputation with post-transplantation outcomes is unknown. We hope that our analysis will be able to better inform preoperative risk-stratification for ESRD patients awaiting kidney transplantation, with the potential to influence national program-level risk-stratification algorithms administered by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
What are you planning to do after you graduate?
After graduation, I will be attending medical school in the fall. This program has helped me to be able to reach such a momentous goal in my life. I am very excited about my future and medical education. I feel prepared to tackle the academic and professional challenges I may face. I have a strong community that I have created, and I know my community will be there along the way to help and support me through this journey.
What advice do you have for students who are considering coming to Drexel’s IHS program?
My advice to students considering this program is to be ready to work hard. Find a good circle of people to keep you focused. These can be people in your class, friends or family. Do not be afraid to ask questions, even if you must ask them twice. Just know it will not be easy, there might be tears, but the Drexel IHS program and community is always there to support.