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John (Ikenna) Ogwuegbu, College of Pharmacy student

Pursuing Pharmacy for His Family: Ikenna Ogwuegbu

Criminology. Global interactions. Diplomacy.

Once upon a time, John (Ikenna) Ogwuegbu thought that all of those things would be part of a career – his career — in international relations.

The Nigerian-born College of Pharmacy student had completed a master’s degree program and was well on his way to earning a Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution studies when his mother fell ill and required travel to the U.S. for care.

Suddenly, Ogwuegbu and his siblings were initiated into the world of hospitals and health care.

“I was exposed to a lot of things while my mother was in the hospital. Nobody could tell me what was going on, so I just kept looking things up on Google to see how severe her condition was,” says Ogwuegbu.

Pivoting his career path

After that ordeal, Ogwuegbu decided that someone in his family needed to go into health care to better understand what health care providers were saying. (His mother has since recovered.) Ogwuegbu first considered pursing a nurse practitioner degree, but when he thought about what an impact a career in pharmacy could have on his family and community back home in Nigeria, he pivoted into pharmacy.

The lack of drug regulation in his home country was one motivator.

“In Nigeria, you don’t need prescriptions. You can go to the pharmacy and get anything you want. My mom sometimes tells me she’s taking a certain medication and now that I’m in pharmacy school, I’ll be like, ‘Why are you even taking that?’ She hears her friends say, ‘Oh this is good for this, this is good for that.’ I want to be able to know, especially for my family, what they’re taking and what it’s actually doing to their bodies,” says Ogwuegbu.

Training at NEOMED is helping him to better understand how certain medications will affect his future patients — who just might be relatives. From his two years of experience at the University, Ogwuegbu says, “NEOMED really prepares you to be the best pharmacist you can be.”

Family support

Ogwuegbu’s career journey has had its challenges. “I hated science, that’s the funny thing,” says Ogwuegbu. “In undergrad, we needed to meet certain requirements to graduate, so I took natural history and geography courses to avoid biology. The transition to a science-based curriculum was difficult, because I hadn’t taken advanced science courses since high school.”

Ogwuegbu has sometimes doubted himself along the way, but he credits his supportive family and girlfriend with helping him through the tough times at the beginning.

Ogwuegbu says his girlfriend, a third year medicine student at Tufts University in Boston, played a large role in helping him transition into the science world of academia.

“As a pre-med student, she was readily available to tutor and explain things to me in a manner I could understand. She was very supportive and dedicated her time to ensure I succeeded during the start of my post-bacc program, which occurred during her gap year,” he says.

An involved student

In addition to studying pharmacy, Ogwuegbu serves as a Diversity Council representative, co-president of the University’s new Black Student Association and as the community service chair for NEOMED’s Student National Pharmaceutical Association chapter. He also mentors first-year College of Pharmacy students.

He continues to have a passion for all things international and hopes to become involved with organizations like UNICEF and United Nations. But for now, he’s taking his aspirations one step at a time and starting local at NEOMED, where he hopes to leave a lasting impact on cultural awareness.

He’d like to help NEOMED become a more diverse campus – and to show itself in that way.

As he puts it, “When students come to campus for interview days or even on tours, I want them to feel like NEOMED is an environment where they can see themselves.”