Jummie Akinwunmi made sure not to just check off ‘the boxes’

From the outset, pre-med student Akinwunmi was determined to spend her undergraduate years also learning about herself and her cultural heritage.
Jummie Akinwunmi

Jummie Akinwunmi (Photo by Jack Devlin ’22)

As a pre-med student, Jummie Akinwunmi knew she had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time.

There were the required science courses she had to take, but also the research and clinical experiences that would help to solidify her choice of becoming a doctor in the future. Yet from the outset, Akinwunmi was equally determined to spend her undergraduate years learning about herself. She wanted to learn about Nigeria and her own cultural heritage.

Jummie Akinwunmi with the Afrobeat dance group Dzana

And so, along with her five-year coursework toward a B.A. in the history of science, medicine, and public health, and a Master of Public Health (M.P.H) in health policy, Akinwunmi took courses in African history, African-American history, global health, and more. She joined the Afrobeat dance group Dzana and led the group as president in her sophomore year. She co-founded the Yale Nigerian Students Association and used fun activities and discussions to celebrate Nigeria’s rich culture. She worked one summer as an instructor in the Yale Young African Scholars program and introduced African high school students to the college application process. And she studied Yoruba, her parents’ first language.

I think the thing I’m most proud of is that while I knew I had a lot of boxes to check off as pre-med student, I did manage to stay committed to my desire to have my time at Yale be about more than that,” said Akinwunmi. “I wanted to further deepen my identity and just learn about myself.”

Along the way, she got a taste for her future life in medicine by treating student athletes and others as an emergency medical technician (EMT) on the Yale Emergency Medical Services team, and volunteering as an EMT during school breaks in the town of Beacon, New York.

She also served as an undergraduate research assistant in a neuroscience lab; spent a summer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) working to ensure equitable health and safety policies; and gave blood pressure screenings to members of the New Haven community as a volunteer with the Hypertension Awareness and Prevention Program at Yale. Last summer, she interned for Saving Mothers, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing global maternal mortality, and she is currently a research intern at the Yale School of Medicine’s Equity Research and Innovation Center (ERIC).

Through it all, Akinwunmi has become passionate about advocating for health equity for all.

Working in and studying underserved communities has shaped my interest in health equity, including the importance of making sure that the research produced by the CDC and other organizations is inclusive —  that its subjects are representative of the populations they are trying to serve,” said Akinwunmi.

Her senior thesis examines how colonial and post-colonial economic policies in Nigeria affected access to maternal health services.

I learned that Nigeria, unfortunately, has one of the largest maternal death rates in the world,” said Akinwunmi.

This summer, Akinwunmi will continue her research for ERIC, and then will complete her final year at the School of Public Health as part of the joint B.A./M.P.H. program. She will then apply to medical school, with the aim of specializing in emergency medicine.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to live a full life at Yale while pursuing a career in medicine,” Akinwunmi said.

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