Nkemjika Ugonabo: Utilizing Linkage Program, Finding Balance at Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr College’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program provides a rigorous and highly prestigious one-year program for those interested in applying to medical school but lack the required undergraduate prerequisite courses. In the summer of 2015, new alumni feature stories were written for use on the program’s recently re-designed website, targeting prospective applicants.

Read the article on Bryn Mawr’s website

According to Nkemjika Ugonabo, who completed Bryn Mawr’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical program in 2012, the year she spent at Bryn Mawr was academically challenging, rigorous and incredibly focused. But it wasn’t without balance.

Some of Ugonabo’s best and most impactful memories from her time in the program are when she was outside of the classroom, engaging in community and healthcare settings and bonding with her classmates.

As a volunteer with Community Volunteers in Medicine, a clinic in West Chester, Pa. that provides free medical care to low income families, Ugonabo would rush from her postbac classes to provide counseling and HIV testing to patients at the clinic.

She and another postbac student also organized a dinner at a local women and children’s shelter in honor of World Food Day. Ugonabo and 10 of her classmates cooked and served dinner to about 50 people at the shelter, showcasing foods and sharing music from various cultures while interacting with the women and children.

“It was being able to be involved in these experiences that helped me through the stressful times,” she said. “In the middle of classes, exams, the MCAT and application process, I could step outside of it and have this reminder of why I wanted all this in the first place.”

Originally from New York City, Ugonabo attended Stanford University as an undergraduate and majored in human biology with the intention of pursuing a career in public health and health management. After graduation, she lived in Chicago and worked in management consulting as a business analyst, a position that allowed her to evaluate business processes within healthcare systems, involving everything from philanthropy to the pharmaceutical industry.

But it was a four-week period she spent in Oaxaca in Southwestern Mexico the summer after her junior year at Stanford that had Ugonabo feeling that the medical provider path was more in line with her ultimate career goals.

“We were living with host families and volunteering at clinic and hospital settings, seeing firsthand the ethnic and cultural issues and problems with healthcare access this community faced,” she said. “I loved what I was doing in my job, but something kept drawing me back to my time in Mexico.”

Ugonabo began exploring a career in medicine, volunteering in health settings and speaking with mentors and professionals in the field. She contacted a staff member in admissions at Stanford University School of Medicine who had traveled with her on the service trip to Mexico. He talked her through the different paths someone could take to attend medical school and suggested she look into post baccalaureate programs like Byrn Mawr.

It was ultimately the one-year time frame, success rate of medical school acceptances and hearing from other students in the program that made Ugonabo choose to attend Bryn Mawr.

Now a fourth year medical student at the University of Michigan, Ugonabo utilized a linkage between the school and Bryn Mawr to go straight to medical school after completing the postbac program without taking a gap year during the application process.

“Going through the linkage program, you have to choose which medical school is best for you, study for and take the MCAT and go through the admissions application and interview process all while you are still in postbac classes,” she said. “But the advisers at Bryn Mawr are with you every step of the way, helping you juggle it all. They have a wealth of experience and work extremely hard to help you accomplish your goal of getting into medical school.”

Photo credit: Bryn Mawr College, courtesy of University of Michigan