Ifunanyachukwu (Ify) Olubunmi Okwuosa

Public Health

Through her childhood and into her teens, Ifunanyachukwu – or Ify – wondered what her talent was. Dancing, singing, sports… nothing fit. “After various unsuccessful attempts to assume a talent, I decided to stick to what I enjoyed doing best, which was solving math problems.”

So Ify challenged herself, kept solving higher-level problems, and soon her teachers noticed and nudged her on to math competitions up to the international level. Over time, Ify came to recognize something beyond her talent for numbers: “Upon reflecting deeply on this interest, I was able to tie it to a talent for recognizing problems, analyzing them and coming up with adequate solutions.”

She gives this example: “As a high school senior in Nigeria, I once had a conversation with a girl from my hometown who had lost confidence in herself due to her belief that education was only for the wealthy. It was a perspective that had never crossed my mind. On returning to the city where I lived, I started working on a project to rebuild the confidence of children in rural areas like my hometown. I reached out to health-related organizations for support but was politely turned down by the very few that responded. Instead of giving up, I decided to perfect my ideas and communicate with more people till I got some funding from donors and close family members. I was also able to convince some medical students to set up workshops with mock clinics for the children.”

It was a success. “The first session was very fulfilling as most of the children were motivated and excited about education. This experience led our team to expand to more villages and we received more funding and grants from local organizations to provide school supplies to some of the children and set up small tutoring centers with some of the interested adults in the communities as tutors. I continued this work for a year until I relocated to the U.S.”

For such leadership thinking and action-taking, and along with her extraordinary body of volunteer work, Ify has earned a place at UC San Diego. She plans to obtain a master’s degree in public health and an M.D. “My major focus will be on addressing issues concerning health and health care disparities globally.”

Growing up in Nigeria, she says, “I became accustomed to a dilapidating healthcare system, which often resulted in high mortality rates in the country and reduced life expectancy. I had always yearned for the opportunity to effect a change in my community through research to better understand some of these issues in healthcare, and their solutions.”

And true to her mathematical talents, she says, “As an individual, I plan on funding educational programs to encourage minority students in STEM and health-related majors to create a more proportional distribution of minority groups in those fields.”

Honored with a Town & Gown award, she says, “This prestigious scholarship will help support my academic journey by reducing my financial burden and helping me focus my energy and passion on my education as well as giving back to my community through health programs in San Diego.”

Ifunanyachukwu (Ify) Olubunmi Okwuosa