A Passion for Health Care: A Sibling Story

October 18, 2018
Orakwue sisters hugging

Sisters, Amarachi & Chidiogo

Moving to the United States from their home country of Nigeria many years ago, sisters Amarachi and Chidiogo Orakwue relocated to Rochester, MN when their mom accepted a nursing position at St. Marys, Mayo Clinic. Parents Osita and Gertrude Orakwue hoped the move to the U.S. would open up educational doors for their children. Unsurprisingly, Osita and Gertrude also had an influence on their daughters attending the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR).

Amarachi, the older of the two sisters, is a junior at UMR. She is currently studying Health Sciences and plans to pursue medical school upon graduation to become a doctor in family medicine or anesthesiology. Chidiogo, a freshman also studying Health Sciences, is set on becoming an obstetrician. Her love for medicine and babies, and the strong-held belief that in today’s world, childbirth should not be as precarious as it currently is, drives her towards this goal.

After attending Century High School in Rochester, Amarachi planned to move away, but this time for college. She discovered UMR by coincidence when she drove by University Square and noticed the big M on the side of the building. As she researched UMR, Amarachi learned the University offered degrees in health sciences, the pathway she wanted to take. After taking a campus tour, both Amarachi and her parents were convinced UMR was the right university for her.

Several years later, when Amarachi’s younger sister Chidiogo was in the process of applying for colleges, Amarachi encouraged her sister to consider UMR.

“I knew Chidiogo also wanted to go the pre-med route,“ Amarachi says, “and I knew UMR would be the best place for her. She has an outgoing and fun personality, and she’s really focused. She needs an environment that would help her thrive. Here at UMR, she would be able to stay focused and would also have access to resources that would ensure her success.”

Amarachi was right.

Chidiogo heard through her sister’s stories about the close-knit UMR community and witnessed how having easy access to the professors and her student success coach contributed to Amarachi’s success. UMR became the clear choice.

Chidiogo always knew her career path would be in the medical field. When she toured UMR, she liked that UMR’s singular focus was in health sciences. Not only was UMR close to home, but it is also close to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. She loved the small class sizes and the added bonus of having her sister nearby who could give her insight into the campus and classes.

“Amarachi is like my Wikipedia in a way; she’s able to tell me everything I need to know about UMR,” Chidiogo says. “She’s been through all of the things I’m going through in my first year in college. She’s able to offer me support, encouragement, guidance and wisdom.”

Their parents were thrilled that their daughters decided to attend a university close to home.

“Having my daughters attend college in the same city that I reside in allows me to easily advise, coach and mentor them,” says Osita, their father. “Both of my daughters have the same passion to become health professionals, and I believe that UMR is a good place to build that foundation because it puts them on the right track.” Gertrude, their mother, appreciates the opportunities her daughters will have because of UMR’s collaboration with Mayo Clinic, including research and shadowing opportunities.

The Orakwue sisters are one of many sibling pairs at UMR known as UMR legacy students. Such students contribute to UMR’s growth since the university opened its doors in 2006. What adds to UMR’s uniqueness is the growing sense of family, both figuratively and literally. Numerous UMR students have stated that their passion for health care started at home, with endless inspiration from parents and relatives.

"We love seeing young siblings tour campus with their older sister or brother," says Brett Hartnagel, Director of Admissions at UMR. "The older siblings often give them an insider’s perspective that highlights the true heart of the school."

When asked how they are alike, both Amarachi and Chidiogo agreed that they are driven, focused and strong-willed, all necessary attributes paramount for success for exceptional learners whose careers address real life and real-world problems in the health care arena.

Both Amarachi and Chidiogo acknowledge the tremendous opportunity they have in being able to pursue higher education and the access to resources they have at UMR, empowering them to achieve their goals in the medical field.

“People often say, ‘the sky is the limit,’” Chidiogo says, “as immigrants into this country, my parents told us the sky is not the limit, it is the stepping stone. They have worked hard to give us the best education opportunities, and my sister and I have the drive to succeed.”