What does inspiration mean to you and how would you use your platform in your future career to inspire others?
What makes us all so different? From childhood, that one question replayed in my mind and fueled my curiosity. To answer this question, I began to research the differences between bodies, and it quickly became a source of empowerment. All bodies are a vessel for human life, an ancestral archive compiled of traits passed down from older generations, complete with various systems working in harmony. However, I learned that these bodies come in all shades, shapes, and sizes. I continued researching, and my exploration of the complexities of the body blossomed into a passion for biomedical engineering.
Curiosity is my source of inspiration. When reading a book, my first instinct is to read the last few pages and find the ending. Although it’s a strange habit, my curiosity always overcomes me and I am washed with satisfaction after each spoiler. I’m not at peace until I know the outcome of a matter. In all of my pursuits from education to research to relationships, I am moved forward by my fascination with the big “What If”.
What if we could apply precision medicine to better treat head and neck cancer? What if we could use biophotonics to investigate the brain’s response to strokes? What if we could employ computational modeling to study the biomechanics and mechanobiology of cardiovascular soft tissue disease? The answers to these “What If”s are being explored in various bioengineering institutions across the nation. The endless catalog of undiscovered answers regarding the body drives my desire to develop devices and biomaterials and solve these inquiries. Biomedical engineering combines my passion for research with my love for the medical field. Helping someone improve their body so they can appreciate and thrive in it seems like a beautiful process.
I hope to become a successful biomedical engineer, but I don’t want my impact on the world to only come from developing devices. In my future career, I plan to advocate for the inclusion of black patients in clinical trials. The participants of product studies must represent the people that will use them, but the black population is often underrepresented due to lack of access and a tainted history with clinical trials. I wish to contribute to solving that issue by using my position to spread awareness and inspire others to do the same.
What are you currently doing to inspire those around you?
As night falls, everyone comes down the stairs and to the kitchen table. A typical Friday evening for my family includes an intense round-table discussion on the latest hot-topic issues in the world and their implications. Very often there is deep belly laughter, sucking of teeth in disagreement, and heightened passion. With a Nigerian father, African-American mother, and a revolving door of foreign relatives, each seat at our table holds a differing opinion. Growing up in a household where the development of my positions and the ability to substantiate my argument were required to participate in dinner discussions, has made debate and discourse a part of my core value system. Although there were numerous trips to the behavior chart to move my clip to yellow, my reliance on open dialogue was clear from a young age. I mediated playground tiffs, gave feedback on teachers’ classroom lessons, and shared my opinions on the cafeteria’s lunches. As I grew older, my positions grew more complex. On Friday nights, my family challenges my viewpoints from different angles and forces me to create more intricate and abstract arguments. The mental agility I’ve acquired from family round tables has become an asset in how I inspire others. I apply my communication abilities in my contribution to my community by encouraging others to do the same by facilitating group discussions on racial issues in my school’s Black Student Union. On Tuesday afternoons, thirty students gather in a classroom, set up their chairs in a circular shape, and begin conversation. The Black Student Union provides students with an opportunity to discuss their experiences, use their voice, and empower others through education. As outreach officer, I organized an anthology for Black students at my school to discuss their experience with race and racism. I was enthralled by the pieces’ ability to humanize a narrative many of my white counterparts only see through data and textbooks. The anthology is ever-growing. I present these stories to the administration and the student body to initiate change and evoke empathy. In my role, I emphasize the human experience behind statistics and center story-telling in my advocacy. As the youngest of my family, I have gained confidence, empowerment, and foresight from the knowledge shared by those who have come before me. I have been able to stand on the shoulders of so many and I have looked for opportunities to lend my own shoulders to others. I have recently started working with the Village Mentors Program where I get to mentor a young girl in Zambia. Elissa lives in a small village with little or no infrastructure. Every Saturday, she walks many miles to be able to access a computer for our Zoom sessions. In our conversations, we giggle, study, and dream of the future. I hope to always be a source of support and light for her as she goes through her own journey.
What you would do with the scholarship award if you were to receive it?
My parents have made education a pillar of our family values and they have financially sacrificed in order to give their children the best opportunities. I intend to use the scholarship money I receive to pursue my degree, find housing, access tutoring and apply to externships during my four years of college. I would be so grateful for the Desire to Inspire scholarship’s investment in my journey and I will multiply it by my contribution to my community.