Aspiring doctor, campus leader

Justin Owumi ‘14 has become a strong presence on campus and made an impact on a variety of activities on campus. Owumi is a captain of the track team, a research assistant in the Chemistry Department and one of the leaders of Mules Against Violence, a coalition of students who want to raise awareness of sexual violence in the community. He is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in education.

In the past, Owumi has participated in several different medical programs, including Harvard University’s outreach program, Project Success. While participating in this program, Owumi conducted research in a disease lab at one of Harvard Medical School’s hospitals. He analyzed Staphylococcus bacteria, the etiologic agent of Staph infections, characterizing strains that were affecting premature babies.

Owumi has also completed Duke University’s Summer Medical Education Program, a program designed to prepare interested undergraduates for medical school. During his time there, Owumi took several courses along with participating in clinical rotations, patient simulations and mock medical school interviews.

This past summer, Owumi worked at the Children’s National Medical Center studying Rheumatic Heart Disease, an inflammatory disease that affects the heart, joints, skin and brain of the patient. He developed a student awareness and nursing curriculum while working on a case study of the disease.

After describing his experiences, Owumi remarked, “I have always been pre-med, but ever since I started [Project Success at Harvard] the more I realized I wanted to be a doctor, and Duke was where I said ‘this is only thing I could see myself doing.”

Currently, Owumi is working as a research assistant for Associate Professor of Chemistry Kevin Rice, where his work involves the drug laromustine which is used to treat acute myelogenous leukemia. Along with his academic endeavors, Owumi is also one of the three captains of the men’s track and field team. He is a triple jumper and runs the 55 and 110 meter races. Owumi enjoys the sense of community from the track team, saying, “I think it’s just one big family. You have such a variety of people with so many different interests and backgrounds and you inherently learn a lot from them, by hearing their stories and competing and practicing with them, you develop a special bond that you can’t really break.”

Owumi is also one of the leaders of Mules Against Violence (MAV), a club devoted to challenging the notions of masculinity in society. Remembering some of the projects the club has taken in, he said that last year the club paired up with the Colby Feminist Alliance to make “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” t-shirts. Although Owumi is known for his dapper button-ups and bowties, he said that the feminist t-shirt is one of his favorite pieces of clothing. MAV has been a big part of Owumi’s Colby experience, adding, “Being a member of MAV has helped me develop as a man and practice healthy masculinity.” Owumi is also actively involved in other student clubs and organizations on campus, including: Students Organized for Black and Hispanic Unity (SOBHU), the Men of Color Alliance (MOCA), and Gentlemen of Quality (GQ).

At this point, you may be wondering how Owumi manages all of these activities, while still maintaining a social life —and at least some form of a circadian rhythm. Owumi explained, “I average 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, 6 hours on a great day, but I really love it and I’m really driven—I know what the end goal is.”

Owumi has bright plans for the future. He is currently finishing up the application process for the Rhodes Scholarship. Each year 32 American students are selected as a Rhodes Scholar; Owumi recognizes the selectivity of the program and has alternative plans just in case. He said, “I want a master’s in public health, and if the Rhodes Scholarship doesn’t work out, I plan to do some kind of public health research for a year or two, and then go into med school.” Owumi hopes to one day become a pediatric cardiologist.

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