Amarachi Orakwue and Victoria Ajayi, two recent graduates of the University of Minnesota Rochester, always knew they wanted to work in the health care field.
That desire and drive helped them become friends as Raptors, and confirmed that more schooling was in the cards for them after they received their first diploma in Rochester.
“I knew [post-grad schooling] was always the path for me,” said Ajayi. “It’s a lot of school, and it’s a long journey, but I’m excited to keep working — and I know it’s going to be worth it at the end.”
The journey to receiving those white coats reached a new milestone for the pair over the past few weeks, with each moving on to a new school: Orakwue started her first semester of medical school at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Ajayi at Tufts University in Boston.
“We have a lot of materials at our disposal, and the people around us are supportive,” said Orakwue. “Now it’s all about applying the information we learned in a patient care setting. We chose to be here. We fought hard and worked hard to be here. Now, it’s all about our natural desire to care for patients, and doing it in the best way we can.”
As the pair moves forward to new horizons in Minneapolis and Boston, both Ajayi and Orakwue credit UMR with setting them on the right path to success. Ajayi became a Raptor because of the proximity to Mayo Clinic and the health science-focused curriculum — and left feeling even more certain about the career path she intends to follow.
“UMR just solidified that going into surgery is exactly what I wanted to do,” said Ajayi. “I got to hear from people who do the job and got to see it firsthand — I’m glad I did, because it just fueled me even more.”
It’s interesting, then, to hear Orakwue’s contrasting perspective — UMR also set her on a path to medical school, but the path to her current spot at “The U” was vastly different from Ajayi’s. Orakwue originally chose UMR to become a pharmacy technician, but slowly shifted towards the medical school route after being exposed to the different facets of healthcare.
And she still has a little bit of time before she’ll have to decide on a set path — right now, she’s between moving into dermatology or working in the OB/GYN field.
“I think of UMR kind of like a train,” says Orakwue. “I just got on as a freshman, and they exposed me to so many other areas of medicine that I ended up being interested in. It was really up to me to decide which station I got off at.”
Their advice to incoming UMR students, and all those dreaming of going to medical school and beyond? Orakwue says that the application process can feel overwhelming at times, so make sure you’re moving at your own pace. It’s more important to feel comfortable and secure about the work you’re doing, rather than how fast you’re doing it.
“It’s important to really take your time with your applications,” said Orakwue. “From studying for the MCAT, picking your schools, and writing all those essays — it’s a lot to do, and getting in one year later is no problem. You move on your own time.”
Find your support system early on, adds Ajayi — and don’t be afraid to lean on the people in your corner. Through her time as a Raptor, Ajayi grew close to professors and Clinic physicians alike, who helped her work through the hardest days of undergrad and set her on a path towards success.
“Finding mentors and people I could lean on was so important to me,” says Ajayi. “If I ever had a question, or if I wasn't understanding something, I had people that would help explain things to me. There’s so many people that want to see you succeed — at UMR and elsewhere — so I’d say it’s super important to use the resources you have available.”
This story is included in Med City Beat's September edition of On Campus.