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Nigerian-Canadian valedictorian at McMaster University speaks on success, life and experiences

Meet the Health Sciences valedictorian

Daily News, McMaster University, May 21, 2020

If you could have any superpower what would it be? What is your definition of success? Meet Akachukwu Nwakoby, the valedictorian for the Faculty of Health Sciences.

1. Name
Akachukwu Nwakoby

2. Hometown
Mississauga, Ontario

3. What is the degree and subject you pursued?
Bachelor of Health Sciences

4. What made you choose McMaster?
From the moment I set foot on McMaster’s campus for a visit, I was immediately drawn to the sense of community and school spirit! After taking the time to research more about the university, I was drawn to the unique Problem-Based Learning curriculum as well as the unbridled wealth of opportunities for community involvement, research and mentorship.

5. What will you be doing/see yourself doing after graduation?
After graduation, I will be attending the University of Toronto Medical School. I hope to become a dependable and caring physician in the future.

6. What would you say to your first-year self?
I would tell my first-year self to stop and smell the roses during the transition from high school to university, as it only happens once. I would also tell myself to embrace every learning opportunity that stems from successes and failures. Finally, I would tell myself to eat healthy, pray more and to surround myself with supportive family and friends!

7. Do you have any advice for current and future students?
I would tell future students to always dream big! You do not have to be amazing to start, just begin and trust yourself. Continue to work hard and seek out mentors who are supportive.

“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…and to venture in the highest sense is precisely to become conscious of one’s self.”

This is a quote by Soren Kierkegaard, a Christian existentialist philosopher. It has always been my mantra and motivates me to do my best.

8. How has McMaster shaped the person you are today?
McMaster has given me the opportunity to learn from a host of individuals with diverse backgrounds. I believe this has made me more open-minded, empathetic and knowledgeable about the world. McMaster has also challenged me to improve on my weaknesses both academic, social, and personal. This has helped me develop a growth-mindset as I try to improve my life and the lives of others.

9. What events did you enjoy the most at McMaster or in Hamilton?
Some events that I really enjoyed were our Welcome Week for the first years and Supercrawl in downtown Hamilton. Welcome Week is the orientation week for first-year students. I really enjoyed participating in it and leading some of the fun activities. Supercrawl is an annual art and music festival that takes place in downtown Hamilton. I had an amazing time browsing through the art displays and listening to the various musicians!

10. What is your definition of success?
In my view there is no such thing as a “successful or unsuccessful person.” Success is more of an action than a permanent label. Success to me means constantly improving yourself and working towards your own set of goals.

11. How has McMaster helped you create a brighter world?
McMaster has given me the opportunity to create a brighter world by allowing me to engage with my community through volunteering, research and mentorship.

I have learned about the experiences of others and been able to work with groups of like-minded individuals to implement change within my school and the Hamilton community. I have also been able to inspire younger students to become better versions of themselves through my work as a community advisor.

12. Who is your favourite professor?
My favourite professor is Dr. Catherine Demers! She is a cardiologist and associate professor at McMaster University and the Hamilton General Hospital. I first met Dr. Demers when I reached out to her to be my supervisor for my 3rd year project course.

She was an amazing supervisor and always generous with her time to meet with me and address any of my concerns. She was also able to provide me with amazing clinical research opportunities that opened many doors for me. I enjoyed working with her so much that I also completed my 4th year thesis with her.

I owe much of my acceptance into medical school and my nomination for Valedictorian to her amazing mentorship. I hope to continue working with her in the future.

13. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
If I could have any superpower it would be the ability to instantaneously teleport anywhere. This power would make me much more time-efficient. For example, I would be able to wake up in the morning and teleport into class without having to commute!

Also, this power would give me the ability to travel to any fun event or location across the globe. More importantly, it would allow me to teleport to all my loved ones around the world any time. Finally, if I ever found myself or my loved ones in danger, I could teleport us all to safety!

14. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?
If I could live anywhere in the world for a year it would be Japan. Japan is the birthplace of video games and anime, two forms of media I love to engage in during my leisure time. Furthermore, I love Japanese dishes like sushi, tempura, and ramen. I also feel like the juxtaposition of Japan’s major cities like Tokyo and its more traditional countryside, would make for an exciting cultural experience.

15. What have you been doing to self-care during the COVID-19 lockdown?
To self-care during the lockdown I have been spending a lot of time with my family. We often watch movies on Netflix, go for walks and pray the Rosary together. I find that this helps me relax and de-stress from everything going on around me during these uncertain times.

16. What’s the hardest part about working virtually for you? The easiest?
For me, the hardest part of working virtually is the fact that there is no physical interaction when working with others. There is nothing like the human touch that comes from meeting in person and getting a feel of the environment you are in.

The easiest part is that you do not have to travel long distances to get work done. You can do so much from the comforts of your own home.

17. What would you advice others as we transition to a new normal
Transitioning to this new normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic can be scary at times. I would tell others not to lose hope as we can make it through this together. I would advise everyone to continue to listen to the government and health officials and to ensure that they follow all the health guidelines put in place like washing your hands and maintaining social distancing. I would also stress that despite these times, we should still try our best to keep in touch with family members and friends virtually.

18. While at Mac, did you receive donor-funded financial assistance (e.g., a scholarship, a ward, bursary)? Any thoughts on the importance of giving back to your alma mater to support future generations?
Yes! At McMaster University, in the summer after my second year of undergrad, I was fortunate enough to receive the Bachelor of Health Sciences Summer Research Scholarship. This scholarship provided me with funding so that I could conduct clinical research over the summer with my supervisor Dr. Demers at the Hamilton General Hospital.

This was a great experience as I got a lot of exposure to evidence based research and medical practice that could inform my future career decisions. I would definitely give back to McMaster University in the form of funding when I am in a position to do so in the future. Scholarships like this provide hard working students with opportunities to acquire valuable skills that are necessary to create a brighter world.

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