From Challenges to Triumphs: Meet the Faculty of Medicine’s Amarachi Asomugha

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By David McFadden

Research Writer, University of Ottawa

Amarachi viewing mountain
For Amarachi Asomugha, the prospect of earning a master’s degree in public health at the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine was a one-of-a-kind opportunity that she fully intended to make the most of.

“As soon as I got accepted into the program, I knew I had to grab it with both hands. Throughout this tasking journey, my mantra was: ‘You have this opportunity now, make it count,’” she says. “My long-term goal has always been to carve a niche for myself, where I can merge my medical background with my public health knowledge, so getting an MPH degree was a no-brainer.”

Amarachi headshot 1
Amarachi Asomugha

She’s now on a fast track to a successful public health career. Her practicum supervisor, Dr. Manisha Kulkarni, describes Amarachi  as a highly motivated individual who demonstrated a knack for using creative approaches to synthesize and communicate complex information.

“Amarachi integrated seamlessly into the international research team and demonstrated all the qualities of a future public health leader. It was a pleasure working with her and I’m certain she has a very bright future career ahead of her,” says Dr. Kulkarni, associate professor at the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine, director of the INSIGHT Lab, and assistant dean of the Global Health program.

Perseverance on her educational journey

There were many different experiences – and some unique challenges – on the way to convocation

Amarachi at uOttawa
Amarachi in a uOttawa Faculty of Medicine hall.

Prior to arriving at the Faculty’s School of Epidemiology & Public Health, Amarachi spent roughly eight years in Ukraine earning a degree as an internationally trained physician. When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Amarachi was wrapping up a postgraduate internship for her medical degree and happened to be visiting relatives in London, England.

“Miraculously, I was in London when the invasion happened. That was how I escaped the war physically,” she recalls. “Unfortunately, my friends in Ukraine have had to go through it, and it’s been really tough. I felt like I was going through the war, but just not in person.”

She finished her internship in London and received a postgraduate clinical diploma in Internal Medicine in July 2022 from Kharkiv Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education, after her medical degree in June 2020 from V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University. These universities are located in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city after Kyiv and a hard-hit region that’s been under a sustained bombing assault by the Russian military.

While her medical expertise was developed in Ukraine, Asomugha hails from Nigeria. The second oldest out of six children in her immediate family, she grew up in a city called Aba in Nigeria’s Abia State, located in the African nation’s southeast.

Amarachi boat
Amarachi on a shoreline of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

Excelling in her public health program

Among the highlights from her degree work at uOttawa: As a research assistant in Dr. Kulkarni’s INSIGHT lab, she traveled to Tanzania for six weeks to help develop an important grant proposal.  She completed a policy analysis on national climate change adaptation plans and synthesized the results of stakeholder interviews to develop a conceptual framework for research priority-setting on climate change adaptation and vector-borne diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.  

She presented her findings at a CIHR-funded international research planning workshop in Tanzania that brought together researchers from Tanzania, Benin, the UK, and Canada.

“My practicum experience spurred my interest in various aspects of climate change and how it affects the environment and population health,” Amarachi says. “It was rich and hands-on with lots of opportunities to add my medical knowledge and lived experience of malaria, to foster public health initiatives on a global scale.”

Ready for what comes next

With a master’s degree in public health from the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine, Amarachi aims to create positive change.

Amarachi with elephants
During a break in her MPH practicum work in Tanzania during the summer of 2023, Amarachi went on a safari in Tarangire National Park.

She hopes to work as a public health professional in top health agencies in Canada and contribute her medical knowledge to disease prevention on an international scale. Health promotion, health policy analysis and climate change adaptation strategies in vulnerable populations are her main interests.

“In the next five years, I see myself practicing as a physician in Canada and aim to apply my public health research experience as a clinician to promote the health of Canadians, especially with the newcomer/immigrant population,” she says.

She also intends to use her own diverse experiences – including her experiences as an immigrant adapting to Canada’s education system – to help colleagues.

“I would leverage existing partnerships to provide maximum support to healthcare professionals who are new immigrants, to pursue their dreams of practicing in Canada,” says Amarachi, who won an award for one of the top three projects in the Fall 2023 Applied Public Health Capstone Symposium, analyzing the impact of recent heat waves in Ottawa on sleep quality.

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