Progress Asoluka was about 7 years old when his mother explained to him why his younger sister was different from other children.
When his sister was born in a hospital in Nigeria four years earlier, she and mother were imperiled by neglectful care. His mother told him that hospital staff had turned their attention to another pregnant woman in the ward. She was the wife of a wealthy man who had paid the staff to leave other patients unattended while helping his wife.
Fortunately, a doctor who was off duty came to the hospital to pick up paperwork. He stepped in to save the lives of Asoluka’s mother and sister, but the baby had been deprived of oxygen too long.
“When I heard that story it made me upset and angry. These people were supposed to take care of her. That was their job. That made me want to do better — to set an example. I knew then I wanted to do something in health care.”
Six years later, Asoluka’s mother was selected to receive a green card through the U.S. Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, allowing the family to move to Colorado, where his life changed dramatically. Asoluka learned how to stand up for himself and take advantage of opportunities.
“I went from a 13-year-old who has never seen a computer to now someone who could make a claim that he built his own computer,” Asoluka said in his American Medical College Application Service personal statement.
His mother, who had been a seamstress and vendor in Nigeria, went back to school and became a registered nurse. His father, who had worked for the Nigerian government, is a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
In high school in Aurora, Asoluka joined a program to learn about careers including auto mechanics, filmmaking, engineering, and health care.
While in the program, Asoluka passed the exam to become a CNA, a job he held for six years.
“My favorite part was getting to work with patients especially in the nursing home,” said Asoluka, 25, who most recently was employed by Centura Health. “You feel like you have an intimate relationship with them because you’re always there to help them out whenever they need help.”
After high school he enrolled in a two-year community college, then transferred to University of Colorado Denver, where he graduated with a degree in biology with minors in chemistry and biophysics.
During college, Asoluka worked in research labs on the Anschutz Medical Campus and for StudySoup, recruiting fellow students to contribute class notes digitally or tutor other students.
“In StudySoup, I had to go make pitches in front of classrooms to recruit students. I was afraid of public speaking so I thought the job might eventually help me improve my pubic speaking skills.”
Asoluka also volunteered as a lab manager with STEM Scouts, going into classrooms at Columbine Elementary School in Denver every week for more than a year.
“We taught classes for one to two hours on things like sounds, water, and light in hands-on activities.”
Asoluka plans to add a master’s degree in business administration to his medical degree, and intends to return to Nigeria after his career is established to open a clinic.
“I want to be able to share what I know,” he said. “It’s important to me.”
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