Health sciences grad forges a future in medicine

Evans Osuji

SUMMARY: Health sciences alumnus Evans Osuji (’17) found James Madison University to be a perfect setting to excel as both an academic and an athlete. Since graduating, he has participated in research with the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute. He is currently a first-year medical student at The Ohio State.

Why did you choose JMU and the health sciences major?

I came to James Madison University as a student athlete - part of the football team. While in high school, my desire was to find a college that was equally competitive in both athletics and academics; during my first visit to JMU, I was introduced to precisely that. As an eager high school student, I vividly remember the immediate and impactful impression that JMU made on me. I left my visit convinced that I would commit to the university and spend the next four year of my life maturing at this great institution. The dynamic health sciences major was a particular interest of mine because of the wide-ranging topics that were offered. I was able to study, in depth, the multi-dimensional realm of medicine. JMU provided me the opportunity to explore the many different career paths related to both health and science.

Did you have a favorite class in the health sciences curriculum?

While I had a deep appreciation for every class that I signed up for in the health sciences program, one class that positively influenced my career choices was Health 471: Health Aspects of Gerontology. During this course, I learned that even as a student and aspiring physician, I still have a responsibility to understand and consider the lack of healthcare equity regarding the exponentially growing senior citizen population in our nation. With science and technology advancing at a rate faster than we’ve ever experienced in history, it is also important to recognize that the average human lifespan is rapidly increasing as well. With this information, I was able to leave the course with a better understanding of the infrastructure that maintains our healthcare system, as well as how adaptive it is. I thoroughly enjoyed this class because I was challenged to not only identify deficits in our healthcare system, but I was also encouraged to critically deliberate possible solutions with my peers.

Who taught your favorite class and why was it so valuable?

Ms. Laura Blosser, who has undoubtedly served as a leader, role model, inspiration and a personal mentor of mine, was the professor of the class. While the subject being taught was captivating on its own, I recognize that it is of equal importance to have faculty that embrace their role as an educator, in addition to being passionate about the subjects they teach. Ms. Blosser, who wears many hats around the health sciences department, did an outstanding job with the class. As I reflect on what made the course such a valuable experience for me, I consider how the entire class was challenged to acknowledge significant topics central to health that many people tend to overlook. Ms. Blosser taught Health Aspects of Gerontology in a manner that garnered a new and earned appreciation amongst the class. She challenged us to think outside the box. I left her class curious to learn more not only about what had been discussed in class, but also about other pertinent issues in healthcare that often go overlooked.

Tell us about the opportunities you had to participate in undergraduate research at JMU.

Because I was simultaneously balancing rigorous health sciences courses while being a member of the football team, I often missed out on many opportunities to conduct research during my time at JMU. My one experience with research at JMU came my senior year while taking Health 408: Health Research Methods. During this course, I had to opportunity to collaborate with a group of students on a project that aimed to characterize what social, mental, and physical factors contribute to why fewer female students lifted weights at the University Recreation Center (UREC) compared to their male counterparts. From this project we were able to create a poster and present it at the end of the semester in front of the entire senior health sciences class. This was my first introduction to research that inevitably propelled my later experience at the National Institutes of Health.

How did your health sciences major at JMU prepare you for your educational career?

The health sciences major at JMU helped shape me into the well-rounded and cognoscente health leader in my community that I am today. Rather than steering towards one of the more commonly seen science majors as a means into medical school, I believed that complimenting my STEM courses with a major that was as broad as health sciences would support the holistic and well-versed applicant that I aimed to be when applying to professional programs. Health sciences, as a major, aims to study health, disease, well-being, healthcare, disparities, and interventions alike. Gaining a better grasp of the concepts that revolve around health better equipped me with the ability to promote these topics in my own community. Since graduating, I have been able to leverage some of the material learned in these health sciences classes, and I have continuously applied them in relevant discussions that arise as I move onward with my education.

Tell us about the research you worked on at the National Eye Institute. What impact will this research have on patients/healthcare?

While at the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute, the purpose of my project was to elucidate pathways involved in gene regulation of the eye, specifically the retina. The main protein that was studied inside of my lab was a protein called NRL discovered by Dr. Anand Swaroop. What I found to be most interesting about this protein was its responsibility for a majority of the cone photoreceptors inside of our retina. Cone photoreceptors play a role in the color you see as well as visual acuity. In the absence of this protein in retinas of both human and animals, production of cone photoreceptors decreases as much as 80%, leaving a majority of rod photoreceptors. Rods inside of the retina are responsible for black and white light as well as assisting in the ability the see in dim light settings. In my research, I was hoping to discover protein-protein interactions with NRL and analyze how these proteins play a role in gene regulation. Some of the proteins that help NRL regulate photoreceptors are interestingly enough found ubiquitously inside of our bodies. The question then was how does NRL bring these proteins that are found ubiquitously inside of our bodies together to help regulate transcription?

In addition to this, a majority of my research focused on several lab techniques tailored specifically for investigating interaction of these proteins. Co-Immunoprecipitation, Gel Electrophoresis, and Protein Western Bots were common techniques that were used in this lab in order to study these proteins. Inside of our lab we used both a mouse and bovine model to analyze these functions.

Research at the NIH was a life changing experience to say the least. The advancement of health care starts with research and breakthroughs in the lab. From bench to bed side, translational research constructs new therapies, medical procedures, and prognostic/diagnostic markers that are incorporated directly into hospital settings and care. It is truly a critical component in the advancement of healthcare.

What has your first year in medical school at Ohio State been like?

Medical School is like drinking water out of a firehose” or “Medical school is like throwing mud on a wall and seeing what sticks” are some classic analogies people tend to use to describe the massive amount of information students are required to learn in such a brief time interval. While I do believe my own experiences draw some parallels to these analogies, I recognize that my experiences at Ohio State as a first year medical have extended far beyond the traditional heavy book-work.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside physicians in out patient clinics and assist in the treatment of patients. I have learned an abundance of physical examination skills that I have continued to refine through the year. I have even taken leadership within the college of medicine by joining several organizations where I maintain an executive board position. While juggling a rigorous work load in medical school has certainly been no small task, I have found sustainable balance in my first year that I am confident will allow me to reach the goals that I have set for myself.

One of the most attractive qualities about The Ohio State University College of Medicine is their stance on diversity. There is a culturally rich community here between students and faculty which facilitates and promotes diversity. At OSU, I have a seat at the table and my opinion matters. At times, it can be difficult attending an institution as a minority with little to no community around you. Bearing in mind that many other students in professional schools around the nation do not share similar experiences in diversity or community at their respective institutions, I am grateful for my experiences at The Ohio State.

Do you have a specialty you’re planning to pursue?

Through my first year in medical school, I have made an effort to shadow and explore as many medical specialties as possible to find areas that might be of interest to me. As it stands, I currently have peaking interest in cardiology, emergency medicine, and surgery. Prior to beginning medical school, I was advised not to come in headstrong on a specialty due to the high volume of turnover that most young medical students tend to see prior to getting into their rotations. This was undoubtedly some of the best advice I received. While some may, most new medical students simply do not know enough about the specialties inside of medicine to firmly stand on a career choice for the rest of their lives before having any hands on experience. I am hopeful that as I continue to navigate my way through medical school, I can begin narrowing down on which specialty best aligns with my personality and lifestyle desires. 

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Published: Thursday, March 25, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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