Ashley U. Ezema
Johns Hopkins University
It was during a trip to Nigeria in 2007 that Ashley U. Ezema, a senior at Johns Hopkins University, first decided that she wanted to be a doctor.
Ezema’s parents were born and raised in Nigeria, but she grew up in Ringoes, New Jersey. This trip to their homeland was her first abroad and she saw firsthand how great the need for resources there was.
Still, when Ezema went to college, she chose behavioral biology as a major. It wasn’t until a friend invited her to sit in on a public health class that Ezema found her passion. She switched majors and got involved with Health Leads, a university organization that connects clients at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with services they need, like clothing or shelter.
“That just felt like I was doing tangible work,” she said.
After that experience, Ezema started volunteering with the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society, tutoring girls at a Baltimore middle school. Mentoring students in a school with a majority African American population made a big impact on her as a black woman, Ezema said.
“A lot of them asked me, ‘How are you at Hopkins?’” she said. “I said, ‘I am here and you can be, too.’”
Ezema was selected as The Daily Record’s Leading Woman 2016 Scholarship Recipient. She will receive $1,500 that she will use for her educational expenses.
Lisa Folda, the assistant director of public health studies at Hopkins, nominated Ezema for the award and described her as a “joy to work with.”
“I know she has taken deliberate steps that demonstrate her commitment to improving health outcomes, and has committed herself to excellence at every stage in the process,” Folda wrote.
In addition to volunteering, Ezema has continued traveling abroad to learn about public health. After freshman year, for example, she traveled to Tanzania and “learned a lot about how medicine works in a developing country,” she said.
In junior year, she traveled to India, South Africa and Brazil for a semester to compare the health systems in those three nations. It was another opportunity that solidified her career goals.
“Through the program, I was able to be in spaces I wouldn’t have been in if I was traveling on my own,” said Ezema, who is applying to medical school for fall 2018. Between then and her graduation in May 2017, she hopes to do more traveling and more volunteer work.
“I want to go into medical school with more maturity and more experience,” she said.