Second-year MCW medical student Bellony Nzemenoh spent the first nine years of her life in Cameroon, and those early years – especially her Uncle Joker’s health problems -- shaped how she sees medicine and formed the passion that drives her today.
“As his mouth foamed and he writhed on the ground in agony, I felt overwhelmed by waves of fear and confusion. When my Uncle Joker was rushed to the hospital, his doctors told him that he had liver cancer. United as a family, we felt determined to do whatever it took to restore him to health, but we faced a difficult road ahead,” Bellony shared. “Uncle Joker encountered a corrupt system that depended entirely upon one’s ability to pay. Patients who could not afford care, could not enter the hospital; and if you wanted to be seen expeditiously by a doctor, you had to pay an additional bribe. The wickedness of this system made my blood boil. I wanted desperately to help people like my uncle, but our situation made it impossible.”
At age nine, Bellony and her family moved to Maryland, where she began turning that goal into a reality. During her junior year in college, as well as the summer after graduation, Bellony participated in MCW’s Diversity Summer Health-Related Research Education Program (DSHREP). The experience led her back to MCW for medical school.
“I loved the environment at MCW because everyone is so friendly. My preceptor gave me books to read and always encouraged me,” Bellony said. “MCW is such a fostering environment so, I had to come back for medical school.”
Bellony’s passion for medicine shows up in the way she chooses to spend her free time, including more than a year between college and medical school when she graduated early. She worked as an ER scribe, a pharmacy technician, tutored the SAT, worked as an autism technician, and shadowed Alonzo P. Walker, MD, the Ruth Teske Professor in Surgical Oncology at MCW. For her academic and community service efforts, she has been rewarded with the MCW Dean’s Scholarship, the Rosaryville Association Scholarship, the American Medical Association Minority Scholars Award and the Dr. Elaine Kohler Global Health Scholarship. As part of the Kohler scholarship, Bellony will spend this summer doing research in Croatia.
“The research in Croatia will allow me to study entire health care systems and see what works and doesn’t work. This will help me with my long-term career goals,” Bellony said. “At some point, I want to go to Third-World countries to build hospitals and educate physicians, so, learning about health care systems will be valuable.”
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