To serve world’s poor, Creighton med student becomes Arrupe Global Scholar
That she would become a physician was largely settled by the time Celine Rukiidi was 5 years old.
“I was one of those kids that always said they wanted to be a doctor,” she says. “If you had asked me at 5 years old, I would have said, ‘I’m going to be a doctor, and I’m going to work abroad.’”
Unlike many 5-year-olds, whose commitments to becoming pop stars or ballerinas fade before reaching even the first hurdle, Rukiidi’s deliberate and consistent approach has made her an Arrupe Global Scholar at Creighton University.
Named for Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who served as the 28th superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983, the Arrupe Global Scholars program is a five-year MD and MPH (Master of Public Health) program that educates students pursuing careers in global health and health equity. Scholars work in teams, addressing significant health challenges in locations around the world, all while conducting multi-year projects alongside international healthcare workers.
The first cohort of 12 Arrupe Global Scholars started over the summer, working in the Dominican Republic. It includes six students from Creighton’s Omaha, Nebraska, campus and six from its Phoenix, Arizona, campus, where Rukiidi studies. Headed by Jason Beste, MD’ 08, BS’03, as inaugural executive director, the scholarship-supported program provides an opportunity to perform outreach work in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Uganda, India and elsewhere.
It is an emblematic program, reflecting Creighton’s longstanding commitment to educating servant-leader physicians committed to improving the health and well-being of the global poor, and it proved the dealmaker when Rukiidi sought a medical school after earning an undergraduate degree in biology from Baylor University in Texas.
“Initially, I applied because Creighton is a service-oriented Jesuit school, and I just really loved the values, but what really made me excited after applying was Arrupe,” she says. “As soon as I saw that program, I thought, ‘Oh, OK.’”
Rukiidi’s global consciousness comes naturally. The child of a Ugandan father and Rwandan mother, she was born in New Jersey but grew up in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Alberta. She has visited Uganda and Rwanda several times and says one of several dream jobs is to work at the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda, co-founded in 2015 by Agnes Binagwaho, MD, M(Ped), PHD.
As she reflects on her earliest days as a child, Rukiidi thinks that watching her mother study to become a nurse, and later accounts of the paucity of healthcare in Rwanda, planted the seeds of her commitment to being an agent of change in global healthcare.
“My mom going to nursing school at the age of 30 when I was a toddler was very impactful to me,” Rukiidi says. “She was a flight attendant in east Africa before that. I grew up seeing her studying, and so I always admired the medical profession.
“I was looking for a medical school that would encourage my desire to serve refugees and immigrants, because I felt that was the best combination of my abilities, experiences and background.”
And finally, she says, adding an important final thought:
“I would really like to emphasize that when I thought about the Arrupe program, I didn’t really consider the community I would get from it.
“But that has been very important. We are a very close-knit group of students, and we really do all like each other. That has been one of the biggest blessings I didn’t expect from the program. I thought a lot about the degree, and the abroad time, and all of that, but the people are amazing.”