The Hopkins chapter of The Women’s Network (TWN) held a virtual event with Women's National Basketball Association player and aspiring doctor Erica Ogwumike on Oct. 31. Ogwumike spoke about her loyalty to her sport and medical studies.
Ogwumike grew up playing basketball and received a scholarship to play at Rice University in her hometown of Houston, Texas. During her studies, she shadowed doctors at the Texas Medical Center and found a love for their collaborative environment and elaborate studies. She ultimately decided to pursue the pre-med track and graduated with majors in Health Sciences, Policy Studies and Spanish.
“There’s all these different specialties working together, all doing something for their optimal goal,” she said. “It’s just like basketball; I love the collaboration and the teamwork that [doctors] are doing.”
In her final year of school, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Ogwumike off the court. Around the same time, she was accepted into medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and drafted to play with the Minnesota Lynx.
In 2020, Ogwumike started her medical studies virtually while traveling to training camps to play with the Nigerian National basketball team. She then qualified for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics and returned to school just before her second year.
Throughout her medical school journey, Ogwumike said she feels encouraged to see more minority representation within her field.
“There was a C-section that we were doing, and every single physician and nurse in that room except for one was an underrepresented minority and a woman,” she said. “There are some specialties where you do feel like you are the majority sometimes, which is really interesting.”
Ogwumike also described her hardships and setbacks, emphasizing that the hard work pays off.
“Sometimes [the patients] teach you more than you teach them. It’s really cool to watch them become your family and have a longevity type of relationship with them,” she said.
In response to a question about the best piece of advice she has been given throughout her career, Ogwumike highlighted the importance of realizing your strengths. She recognized that it can be hard not to compare yourself to people doing similar things but emphasized the importance of realizing how much you have to offer yourself.
Ogwumike encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the University.
“Your opportunities are limitless here,” she said. “You all are in a great position to really do whatever it is you want, as long as you have optimism, productivity and confidence.”
When asked about her greatest accomplishment, Ogwumike shared that attending to patients and understanding their needs made her love for the sciences grow even further.
Ogwumike’s current specialty interest is dermatology due to the visual learning and tactile aspects of the career. She hopes to work with skincare or hair care companies to assist in creating products.
In an interview with The News-Letter, senior Ria Jha noted that Ogwumike's passion for medicine and drive to achieve her goals reminds Jha of her own.
“Hearing her story of why she chose going into medicine instead of continuing as an athlete really made me think about why I want to go into medicine and what really matters to me,” she said.
Senior Yordanos Degefe expressed her admiration for Ogwumike’s determination and accomplishments in an interview with The News-Letter. She shared that Ogwumike inspired her to prioritize medical school rather than pursue a path that is expected of her.
“Erica advised us to be productive, confident and always have a plan as we strive to accomplish our goals,” she said. “She shared that she isn’t always confident 100% of the time but ‘fakes it ‘till she makes it.’ This perspective was so inspiring because it really emphasized that everyone experiences moments of self-doubt, even an Olympic athlete-medical student.”
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