Chidum Okeke, MPH ’23 (Health Care Management), seems to be everywhere all at once.
In his first year at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH), he has been: studying for his master’s degree; working as a graduate assistant at the Yale School of Medicine; producing videos and social media posts as a YSPH student communications specialist; hosting the Yale Journal of Biology & Medicine Podcast; attending gatherings of the Nigerian Student Association, and playing club soccer. To top it off, in late March, he participated in the 2022 African Business Conference, hosted by the Harvard Business School.
So how does he find the time and energy to do it all?
“It really comes down to deciding what is most important to you,” Okeke said. “What sort of time and activities are you willing to sacrifice, and how much flexibility do you have to make it work?”
At the time of this interview, Okeke was in Norwich, England, where he spent the summer working as a population health intern with the NHS (National Health Service) Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group.
“Sometimes, that meant starting my mornings at 4 a.m. to stay on schedule with my studies, but I’m a morning person, so that’s just what works for me!,” he said. “Training my mind and body to function in the ways that I needed wasn't easy in the beginning. Even to this day, if I'm under more stress than usual, the discipline necessary to wake up at an ungodly hour can be even tougher to sustain. There's no ‘secret sauce’ or even a ‘right’ way to do this, but I would say most of my determination is attributable to my upbringing.”
Taking on a huge workload is nothing new for Okeke, who earned his BA in 2021 from the University of Louisville, where he majored in public health with a biology minor. YSPH was a natural choice for his graduate degree.
“Out of every school I interviewed for, YSPH was the place I felt most at home,” he said. “Speaking to current students and learning more about the curriculum, culture, and available resources, I had no doubts about the school’s ability to support and uplift me throughout my academic endeavors.”
One he arrived at Yale, Okeke immediately plunged into a bunch of extracurricular activities. Take, for instance, his work as a part-time communications specialist with the YSPH Office of Communications. Okeke creates content for the school’s new TikTok page, which went live at the end of 2021. As with everything else, the position appeals to one of his passions.
“As a public health undergraduate student at the University of Louisville, much of my work revolved around marketing and health communications,” he said. “As a videographer and editor, I decided to bridge my passions for the arts and for public health solely motivated by my own passions.”
When a YSPH student content creator position presented itself during his first semester, Okeke said he was inspired by the school’s intentionality to use social media as a means for positive change and spreading public health information.
“My favorite experience has been meeting and learning from the YSPH faculty and being able to use our platform to highlight their amazing work and initiatives,” he said.
Attending the Harvard African Business Conference (HABC) was another highlight of Okeke’s first year.
“It was an incredible experience to spend a weekend in Boston with fellow classmates and new faces from across the globe that shared similar identities to my own,” said Okeke, the son of Nigerian immigrants. “As a first-generation Nigerian American, knowing most of my relatives still bear the burden of failed government systems and a lack of basic infrastructure, I believe the COVID pandemic has rekindled a fire for the advancement of Africa as a whole. Part of that advancement requires the recreation of sustainable Nigerian institutions that will lead to growth, pride, and prosperity for our people.”
The HABC was the perfect place for conversations to be had with fellow business scholars and African global leaders to redefine Africa’s position in a changing geopolitical environment, he said.
Okeke has settled in nicely in New Haven, where you might spot him enjoying his favorite food — the Amante Delle Carne pie at the city’s legendary Pepe’s pizza. But his passions carried him across the Atlantic this summer after he landed an internship with the NHS in England.
“The Yale Global Health Leadership Initiative has a strong partnership with the NHS; teams of senior leadership travel to New Haven each year in order to collaborate on increasingly complex systems and to catalyze partnerships across disciplines with the aim of implementing system-wide improvements,” he said. “During their visit, I had the great opportunity to meet a few of the senior leaders within the NHS and chat about their work. One thing led to another, and I was offered a position to work with them this summer on their ongoing National Diabetes Prevention Program.”
Where Okeke’s passions carry him after graduation remains unknown. At the moment, he is interested in becoming a surgeon. Okeke has been studying for the MCAT and says he plans on heading to medical school.
“Although every medical student will tell you that your specialization is subject to change until you complete your first few rotations, I’ve always dreamed of practicing as a surgeon. So until then, that’s what I’m set on.”