Eniola Mudasiru, MD, Minority Medical Education Program, 2001

Growing up in the African nation of Nigeria, Eniola Mudasiru always wanted to be a doctor—maybe because of the programs about doctors she used to watch on television, she says. Today Mudasiru is a fourth-year medical student at Vanderbilt University hoping to practice medicine both in the United States and Nigeria. "They say nothing is impossible," she says.

Indeed, the success to date of Eniola Mudasiru's far-ranging educational journey suggests nothing is impossible, at least not for her. One helpful stopover on that journey was a summer academic enrichment program in the United States that Mudasiru attended with other college undergraduates interested in applying to medical school. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the program, called the Minority Medical Education Program.

Mudasiru, the daughter of a now-retired Nigerian government worker and a businesswoman, completed high school and two years of college in her native city of Lagos but decided to continue her education abroad. "I just wanted to go somewhere that was more technologically developed," she says. Her parents were supportive but concerned about the expense.

Cost turned out not to be much of an obstacle, thanks to Mudasiru's high score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. (Yes, she says, you can take the SAT in Nigeria.) With the help of an organization (MET, Lagos) that matches students and overseas schools, she got a hefty scholarship to Fisk University, a historically African-American institution in Nashville, Tenn. In January 2000, at age 18, she left home. With her college credits from Nigeria and an overloaded course schedule at Fisk, Mudasiru quickly became a junior, majoring in biology and looking ahead to the medical school application process.

Fisk, which does not have its own medical school, was at that time offering the pre-medical summer enrichment program in partnership with Vanderbilt's School of Medicine, a neighboring Nashville institution. Mudasiru applied for the 2001 summer session and was accepted.

She and the other students lived on the Fisk campus and three days a week took classes at Fisk in chemistry, biology and other sciences as well as communications skills. The other two days they spent at Vanderbilt, shadowing physicians and participating in sessions conducted by Vanderbilt medical students on medical problems and case studies. The program, including meals, was entirely free.

For Mudasiru, unlike some of the younger participants, the science courses were a review—one that helped her prepare to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), she says. The communications class improved her writing—an activity in which she had never had great interest—and, specifically, strengthened the autobiographical essay she was required to submit as part of her medical school application and also strengthened her essay portion of the MCAT.

Also, Mudasiru developed a good relationship with the physician she shadowed—John L. Tarpley, MD, a surgeon on the Vanderbilt faculty. He wrote one of her recommendation letters for the school of Medicine and, after her acceptance, became her faculty adviser. Vanderbilt gave her an attractive financial aid package, including a diversity scholarship. As far as the knows, she was the first Vanderbilt-Fisk summer program participant to attend Vanderbilt's medical school.

The enrichment program remained a part of Mudasiru's life. For three summers she returned to the program as a teaching assistant—immediately before beginning medical school and twice while a medical school student.

Once she completes her residency in one of several internal medicine sub-specialties she is considering, Mudasiru would like to practice both here and in her native country. She always wants to maintain contact with America and American technology, she says, but at the same, "You have to reach out to people who need you, you can't get all comfortable."