Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Izhar Mbarani
This spotlight was published in the spring 2022 issue of New England College Magazine.
Health Science ’17
Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, I observed the effects of social determinants of health. People living in specific regions of the city had poor access to medical care and, thus, poor outcomes just because of where they lived. I saw malaria, HIV, and other deadly diseases, which caused a lot of children to become orphaned. I met some of these children at the orphanage where my father taught. Ever since then, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I thought that a career in medicine would allow me to make an impact.
As I grew up, I did not know how I could achieve that goal. When I moved to the United States, I began looking for mentors who could help me navigate this complex path. I have connected with mentors who have helped confirm that medicine is the right path for me.
I arrived in New Hampshire in 2008—in the middle of a snowstorm—and began eighth grade. When I was ready to look at colleges, I specifically looked for schools that offered affordable applications. NEC was one of those schools, and they offered a good scholarship. At the new-student orientation, all of us incoming students were introduced to advisors. I was paired with Professor Jim Newcomb (Biology and Health Science), and from that point on, I knew NEC was the right choice. He was and continues to be a great mentor for me.
In my senior year at NEC, I realized that it would be quite challenging to maintain my class schedule, especially with difficult classes like organic chemistry, while trying to also interview at medical schools. I chose to focus on my classes and then take a gap year. During that year, I worked at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, which helped pay my travel expenses for interviewing at different medical schools. I started medical school at Dartmouth College in the fall of 2018, and I graduate in May 2022.
My next step is to head to Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan teaching hospital, for a year in general surgery. I’m grateful for this opportunity to focus on caring for surgical patients.
The United States is unique in that it offers so many opportunities and ways to overcome challenges. Medical school is challenging, but it would have been more so in Kenya. Just being accepted into a program there would have been harder because Kenya offers so few of these opportunities, and I’m not sure that the education would have been the same quality as what I have experienced at NEC and Dartmouth.
I feel privileged to be able to pursue this dream in the United States. My decision to pursue a career in medicine has been affirmed over and over throughout medical school. Medicine combines science and connection with other people, and I cannot think of any other career field that combines these two so elegantly.
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