Thursday, October 16, 2008
Ouma prepares for a medical career
Imagine walking into an AIDS hospice where the rooms are packed with patients in different stages of the scourge.
Imagine meeting Mike, a 30-year-old emaciated patient who is sitting all alone and filled with gloom. Imagine someone like him becoming a good friend.
It may seem far-fetched for some, but for Kevin Ouma it was reality, not fantasy.
He worked at the hospice in his native Kenya as a volunteer and had come to take Mike — who had been suffering from tuberculosis several weeks — for a medical check-up. After the doctor’s visit, Ouma suggested they should have lunch together. Mike refused because he had not received any visits from his friends or family in two years. After much persuasion, Mike accepted and Ouma learned of his story.
He said his encounter with Mike was so enlightening. First, he realized that healing of the sick goes beyond drugs. Secondly, of all the volunteering, shadowing and academic experiences, nothing had challenged his desire of pursuing medicine as his experience meeting Mike.
“It was not because I knew AIDS was incurable and Mike would die soon. I had worked and mingled with AIDS patients for two years as a volunteer at the Youth HIV/AIDS Testing Center. I knew many who had lived with the disease for more than 10 years.”
Death was not new to him either. When he was seven years old, his father succumbed to cancer. As a result, Ouma had been forced to work and pay his way through high school and now college.
“Despite my challenging meeting with Mike, I am glad I never gave up on him and his fellow patients. I welcomed the opportunity to assist them while reinforcing my understanding of medicine,” said Ouma.
In the summer of 2006, he enriched his interest in medicine as a participant in cancer research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center under the watchful eye of Dr. Kornblau.
“He always reminded me that a career as a physician should be a personal decision with real commitment. Under his guidance I was able to develop a Nonmyeloablative mice regimen model for allogenice bone marrow transplant leukemia treatment,” Ouma said.
Then in the summer of 2007, Ouma made a presentation at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. Also that summer, he was a Summer Research Internship Program fellow at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
His most recent research experience was done at Yale University School of Medicine this past summer. He performed bioimage software analysis and quantification of MRI brain images and cell culture and immunohistochemistry analysis.
Ouma worked in the diagnostic radiology department, where he was mentored by Dr. Papademtris.
Academic and life experiences nurtured his intellectual capacity and developed his interpersonal skills. He understands time, commitment and training for medicine is demanding and challenging. But he sees it as opportunities to be surmounted.
Honors and Awards
Kevin Ouma is a hard worker and is a junior with a double major in biology and chemistry. He was recognized in Kenya for his efforts with Feed the Children and he received the Britain and Kenya High School Science Exchange Program Scholar award. At Rust, he has been recipient of the President’s Award and the Collegiate All American Scholar Award.
Ouma is a President’s List scholar and has been named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society. He was the recipient of the 2007 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students Travel Award.
Ouma’s no stranger to Rust College. In 2004 his two elder siblings graduated from Rust. His brother Mike Opata is working on a Ph.D. degree at the University of Kentucky. His sister Lillian Ouma is now pursuing nursing at the University of Memphis.
“Besides having my siblings here, I chose Rust College because of its great reputation for producing great minds that are making tremendous contributions not just in America but across the world,” said Ouma.
“Rust’s small but diverse student and faculty population is invaluably enriching and fascinating. One experiences and learns a lot about other cultures at Rust. Lastly, I decided to come here because of Rust’s affiliation with Meharry Medical College, an important facet for me as an aspiring physician.”
Since his arrival at Rust, Ouma has excelled and accomplished more than he’d anticipated. He is now preparing for the MCAT medical school admission.
“It is beneficial to give back to the community that nurtures you; as such I engage in biology and chemistry tutoring,” he said.
He is a peer advisor mentoring fellow students and he has established a free MCAT Preparation session for committed students.
The sessions are held every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-6 p.m.
During his free time he plays Scrabble and engages in Big Brother/Big Sister mentoring programs in Memphis where he resides.
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