Studying How to Serve

February 15, 2018 | By Tim Pratt

Elizabeth Buchen (SF96), left, and Joy Nwodo (SF19) participated in the college’s job shadowing program last spring.

Growing up in Nigeria, Joy Nwodo (SF19) saw health care services that were lacking.

Health centers, personnel and equipment were inadequate, especially in rural areas, and many families suffered.

The situation led Nwodo at a very young age to decide she wanted to become a doctor.

“It’s almost an obligation for me to do something in the health field,” she says. “Now it’s (a question) about what I want to do and the service I want to render.”

Last May, Nwodo took advantage of the St. John’s job shadowing program to learn more about potential health and medical careers.

St. John’s paired Nwodo with Elizabeth Buchen (SF96), an immunization consultant for the New Mexico Department of Health. Buchen went to medical school, completed a residency and practiced briefly as an OB/GYN before she started working for the state eight years ago.

Nwodo appreciated Buchen sharing experiences from different stages of her life.

“It was nice speaking with someone who went through what I want to do,” Nwodo says.

The pair met for coffee in Albuquerque before heading out into the field. Among Buchen’s duties, she visits clinics and high schools to make sure they have the correct immunization vaccines, they are up-to-date and not expired.

During Nwodo’s visit, Buchen completed a compliance visit for a member clinic in the Vaccines for Children program, a federally-funded initiative that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of an inability to pay.

Buchen says she welcomed the opportunity to teach a fellow Johnnie about potential career paths. It’s a good idea for students to shadow alumni during their spring or summer break, she says, instead of learning by trial-and-error after they graduate.

“I think it benefits the student because even if what I do ends up having nothing to do with the career path they ultimately choose, it’s a chance for them to be exposed to something and start coming up with the right questions to ask themselves and others—to give them a truer sense of what they might like and not like,” Buchen says.

Nwodo, founder of the International Students Association on the Santa Fe campus, says she learned a lot from the day-long visit.

“I learned I still have to be very sure I want to do medicine before I go into it,” she says. “I’m flexible for my career intentions. I don’t have to do medicine. I could do dentistry or nursing. I just want to be in the health field.”