Feeling at Home

Feeling at Home

Struggling to get into medical school, this former emigrant finds success – and a deeper faith – at Creighton University.  

By Rick Davis, BA’88

Maryam Gbadamosi-Akindele, MD’12, has found a home in Omaha — and a special place in her heart for Creighton University.

The 33-year-old assistant professor in the School of Medicine and medical staff member at the VA Medical Center in Omaha has traveled a wending road, marked by perseverance, determination and a deepening faith.

In the early 1990s, at about the age of 8, Gbadamosi-Akindele emigrated with her family from Nigeria. They eventually settled in New Jersey. Her dad became a successful internal medicine physician, and her mom was a nurse.

Gbadamosi-Akindele was almost expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps. Her parents told Maryam and her sister, Rakiat, that they were to pursue “high-achieving careers, such as law, engineering or medicine.”

“I was going to be the doctor,” Maryam says.

She attended the University of Maryland, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2006. Her sights were firmly set on medical school, but her grades and score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) did not measure up.

She was crushed.

Gbadamosi-Akindele began looking for post-baccalaureate programs online that could help her prepare for another attempt at the admissions process, and stumbled across Creighton’s program.

“I had never heard of Omaha, Nebraska,” she says with a laugh, but Creighton’s intensive program appealed to her.

At the time, students who maintained a certain grade-point average and scored above a certain mark on the MCAT automatically were accepted into Creighton’s medical school. “I said, ‘Sign me up!’” Gbadamosi-Akindele recalls.

She was accepted to the program, and came to Omaha in 2007.

“It was amazing,” she says now. “This is where the life change began.”

Turning to Faith

At Creighton, Gbadamosi-Akindele found a community that would not only help strengthen her pre-med skills and training, but would support her as she began a deeper faith journey.

“The program really challenged me, and I felt like this was my last chance,” Gbadamosi-Akindele says. “When you’re faced with a challenge or adversity, often people turn to their faith.”

That’s what Gbadamosi-Akindele did. Her family was Muslim, but she had never deeply explored her faith. She visited an Islamic prayer room in Kiewit Hall — and began praying.

“As I was reflecting — on this Jesuit, Catholic campus — my faith as a Muslim was getting stronger, because it was a sensitive period in my life where I needed faith, or divine intervention,” Gbadamosi-Akindele says.

She attended a nondenominational retreat through Creighton, and learned more about the University’s Jesuit traditions and values.

“It was perfect timing because it was merging with my development — developing a closer relationship with my Creator,” Gbadamosi-Akindele says. “My favorite Jesuit motto is ‘women and men for and with others.’ I’m learning that this is what God wants us to do — to serve others.”

Gbadamosi-Akindele successfully completed the post-baccalaureate program, and was accepted into the Creighton School of Medicine in 2008. She got married her first year in medical school, and she and her husband, Monsour, welcomed their first child, Rahmah (which means “mercy” in Arabic), her second year of medical school — two months before a major exam.

“I prayed, ‘God, don’t let me fail this exam,’” she says. She passed that test, and others, on her way to earning a medical degree in 2012.

A Profound Moment

When it came time to choosing a residency, Gbadamosi-Akindele felt comfortable staying in Omaha. “I felt at home here,” she says. She entered the internal medicine residency at Creighton, and during her third year was named chief resident.

“It was really one of the most profound moments in my career,” Gbadamosi-Akindele says. “I really took on that leadership role personally. It was like, ‘Lift off!’ It gave me a sense of purpose; I found my voice.

“Before, I was like, ‘I’m going to be a doctor.’ Now I was like, ‘I’m really enjoying being a doctor. I’m loving this.’”

She completed her residency in 2015, and at the final banquet was named Chief Resident of the Year. She remembers taking her then 4-year-old daughter by the hand to go up with her to receive the award.

“This is as much hers as it is mine,” Gbadamosi-Akindele says with a laugh. “On occasion, she would come to the hospital with me and sit at the nursing station as I was conducting patient rounds with my attending physicians.”

Gbadamosi-Akindele’s one-year tenure as chief resident piqued her interest in the academic side of medicine and teaching. So when a job opened up at the VA Medical Center that included a Creighton teaching assignment, she jumped at it.

“I had this passion for teaching,” she says. “Plus I felt comfortable here. People knew me here.”

In short, it had become home.

Being a Role Model

Reflecting on her journey, Gbadamosi-Akindele takes a deep breath and smiles: “Here I am, a post-baccalaureate medical student who is now a Creighton University School of Medicine assistant professor.”

Now the mother of three (she had twins, a boy and a girl, on Aug. 11, 2016), Gbadamosi-Akindele is sharing the lessons she’s learned with others. To her medical residents and students, she poses a simple — but profound — question: Why are you here?

“If you don’t know why you’re here, you’re lost,” Gbadamosi-Akindele says. “My ‘why’ is because I am a woman for and with others, and I am providing a service to my students and my patients. Those are the people I serve. And all for what? For the greater good and for the glory of my Creator.

“As long as I’m serving others for the greater good, that’s what drives me. And I think I learned that here at Creighton. That is a core Jesuit value.”

She also believes it’s important to be a role model for the wider community — particularly as a black, Muslim, immigrant woman. Gbadamosi-Akindele recalls a general health talk she gave to a group of refugees in Lincoln, Nebraska, as a medical student.

“It was a sense of fulfillment to give back, to serve,” she says. “To them, I represented something, ‘I’m an immigrant; this could be my daughter.’ I represented the American dream.

“That was such an important event for me. The success is not just for me now. It represents what could come after.”

It’s a lesson she looks to share with her young children. Her message:

“Find a career that’s fulfilling. Make sure it’s meaningful to you. Make sure you are passionate about it. And be good at it; try to be the best at it. To me, that will launch you into success.”