USF College of Public Health alumnus Chukwudi Ejiofor said he didn’t even know what public health was when he went to medical school. Now, it’s his passion.
Originally from Nigeria, where he also went to medical school, Ejiofor said he wasn’t introduced to public health until he was nearly finished with his degree. Toward the end of his program, he was able to get out into the field, where he saw the problems facing low-income and resource-starved communities, and the interventions used by public health professionals to address them.
“That was my first exposure to public health, and that’s when I decided I really wanted to learn some more about this field,” Ejiofor said.
After doing a little more research, he realized he needed some additional education if he really wanted to help make changes in his home country.
Ejiofor said that he found out about USF from a friend who was in the MPH program. Before arriving at USF, he only knew what he read online and information learned from current master’s students. Because the school was ranked highly, and he was excited about the Maternal and Child Health program, Ejiofor took a chance and moved to Tampa.
Coming from Nigeria, the biggest adjustment for Ejiofor was culture change. Fortunately, though, he found himself at home on USF’s campus.
“I’m really happy I chose USF,” he said. “It’s the people. School is school anywhere you go. It hardly varies. You read your books, you have assignments, you pass exams—well you hope you pass—but the people here are really great.”
Ejiofor said that his mentors at the college encouraged and helped guide him toward his goals.
“They provide you with an environment that helps you learn a lot,” he said. “When you need to be pushed, you’ll get nudged in the right direction.”
Sappenfield helped Ejiofor tailor his program based on his long term goals and also gain the necessary experience, which included working with community agencies such as Planned Parenthood. This provided opportunities for hands-on experience. It was the first time that he was directly involved with children in the community, educating and helping kids as young as 12 and as old as 17.
As an MPH student, Ejiofor was the coordinator of the USF COPH/DOH Community Engagement Initiative working closely with Dr. Martha Coulter, professor and director of the Harrell Center for the Study of Family Violence, who also played an instrumental role in influencing Ejiofor and helping him expand his views.
“She made sure that I did my best to expand my horizon,” he said. “Dr. Coulter made sure that I was involved in every stage of all projects we were involved in.”
Ejiofor said Coulter and Sappenfield often shared new projects and got him involved in things he might find interesting.
“They don’t let you come to them,” he said, describing how his mentors often brought new opportunities to his attention. “I wouldn’t have achieved so much during my program if they weren’t so forthcoming.”
The opportunity to work with faculty in the community is one of his favorite things about the COPH, Ejiofor said. Working with Dr. Coulter was an extremely valuable experience for him, and he said he was impressed that he was earning a degree and working in the field at the same time.
While he wasn’t expecting the opportunity, he is very grateful for it.
“My MPH program went much better than I expected it to go” he said. “Having the opportunity to go out in the community helped me gain more knowledge and experience, and also apply myself more than I would have just learning in the classroom.”
Ejiofor graduated from the COPH in spring of 2015, and then worked as the program coordinator for the MCH Leadership Training Grant. He was responsible for making sure the program ran smoothly and helping create new MCH leaders in the community.
As of July, Ejiofor has begun his pediatric residency in New York at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center. After his residency, his ultimate goal is to be a specialist in adolescent medicine.
“It comes back to the idea of addressing the medical and public health needs of adolescents and teenagers,” he said. “I’m interested in the decisions they’re making regarding their sexual and reproductive health, and also general well-being. They’re the people back home in Nigeria that are least attended to.”
He plans to use his combined background specialty in adolescent medicine and his public health education to help anyone who’s found themselves down a path they can’t get off.
“I can help guide them toward having healthier adolescent years and adult life,” he said.
Beyond his residency, Ejiofor is planning to pursue an adolescent medicine fellowship, and then after that, he’d like to work as an interventionist and clinician. The ultimate goal, though, is to practice his passion back home in Nigeria.
“I want to be that guide for teenagers right before adulthood,” he said.
His goal while earning his master’s was to learn about what more developed nations are doing to improve their public health and how it can be implemented in Nigeria, preferably, through a program of his own creation.
Fast Five for COPH Alumni:
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
Where would we find you on the weekend?
At home, catching up on work or personal projects.
What is the last book you read?
“Concussion,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas.
What super power would you like to have?
What’s your all-time favorite movie?
“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
Story by AnnaMarie Koehler-Shepley, USF College of Public Health
Tags: adolescent medicine, Chukwudi Ejiofor, community engagement, Department of Community and Family Health, Harrell Center for the Study of Family Violence, Martha Coulter, Maternal and Child Health, MCH Leadership Training Grant, Nigeria, Planned Parenthood, Teen Outreach Program, William Sappenfield