Second-year medical student selected for Soros Fellowship

April 17, 2015

Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo, a student at the UC Davis School of Medicine, is among the 2015 recipients of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, the premier graduate school fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants.

Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo
Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo

Ogbu-Nwobodo is among 30 Fellows for 2015, chosen for “their potential to make significant contributions to U.S. society, culture or their academic field,” according to the Soros organization. The Fellows were selected from among a pool of 1,200 applicants.

In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, each new Fellow will join the prestigious community of recipients from past years, which includes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, leading Ebola researcher Pardis Sabeti, Oscar health insurance co-founder Kevin Nazemi and more than 500 other New American leaders.

Born in Nigeria, Ogbu-Nwobodo left at the age of 11 to live with an adoptive family in Oakland, Calif. Unfortunately, she lived in an abusive environment for 13 years, as her guardians sought to exploit her dependence on them. In the process, she developed a strong sense of resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Ogbu-Nwobodo focused on academics and graduated from high school at 15 as the class valedictorian. Although she applied to and was accepted by Harvard University, Stanford University and UC Berkeley, she was not allowed to attend because her adoptive family had let her immigration papers lapse.

Through her own sheer determination, Ogbu-Nwobodo enrolled in California State University, East Bay, paying for both her undergraduate and graduate education by selling home-baked cookies on campus. However, because her home life remained intolerable, she left and was temporarily homeless. Mentors at CSU East Bay eventually helped Ogbu-Nwobodo get off the streets, and she later obtained her green card.

After college, she started volunteering at Highland Hospital, a safety-net hospital primarily serving Oakland’s uninsured patients. She was accepted into the highly competitive UC Davis School of Medicine Postbaccalaureate Program, which helps disadvantaged students pursue medical school.

At the UC Davis School of Medicine, Ogbu-Nwobodo serves as co-director of the Imani Clinic, a student-run clinic that provides services to the medically disenfranchised in Sacramento. She is the co-president of the Student National Medical Association, as well as the president and founder of the UC Davis Neurosurgery Student Interest Group.

Ogbu-Nwobodo said she is dedicated to improving health care through social justice. She plans to specialize in neurosurgery, and after medical school, her goal is to bring specialty medical services to low-income communities.

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