Joshua Udoetuk
2004 Magna Cum Laude in Biology
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by Peggy Sheehan
When students come to the University of Houston they are excited (and sometimes scared) to be out of high school and starting something new. These students are here to discover their future and explore the many opportunities for learning at the university level. At the University of Houston, students have the chance to learn with great professors, to study favorite subjects, and to grow both intellectually and personally.
The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) helped Joshua Udoetuk accomplish all of these goals and more: Joshua, a 2004 NSM Magnum Cum Laude graduate in biology, also discovered a calling and a career. He is now a first-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where, when he is not studying, he is enjoying the time he has with his wife, Sade, also a Penn medical student.
Born and raised in Houston and a graduate of Spring Woods High School in Spring Branch, he became interested in the health professions mainly through the influence of his mother, who is a nurse. At first, Josh was undecided as to which field in health care interested him most. However, he owes his change of mind to the influence of a UH professor: “I actually had a hard time deciding between dentistry and medicine until Dr. Stuart Dryer (from whom I was taking freshman biology) gave a lecture on the basics of neuroscience. I was completely fascinated and decided right there to pursue medicine and focus on the brain. Now that I am in medical school, I am not sure what field of medicine I will go into.”
Early in his college years, Josh “wasn’t quite sure if medicine was for me.” He felt he was not on track as he prepared for his first chemistry exam. Because there were a few problems he had trouble solving, he went to Dr. Simon Bott for help. Dr. Bott “quickly noted that my chemistry was correct and that my error was simply a matter of using my calculator. Before I left, he added that at this point (a day or two before the exam), he felt I was ready. Nothing like a good pep talk from the professor before the exam! It wasn’t until after I had done well on the first few chemistry exams that I gained the confidence to pursue medical school 100 percent. Since then, I haven’t had any doubts.”
Josh affirms that medical school is hard work but feels that he was prepared for it, and that UH gave him something special besides purely academic training. He “felt mentally and academically prepared for medical school,” but says “most medical students can say that. What sets UH apart is the diversity and camaraderie among the student body. Cultural competence and humanity is key in the practice of medicine since the patient population is so diverse. To me, this type of education was most valuable and one that I would not have been able to find at any other university.”
For Josh, much of his success can be attributed to the great professors at the University of Houston. He worked closely with Dr. Costa Colbert in his lab during one summer and states, “I’ve never learned so much in such a short amount of time. Having been through medical school himself, Dr. Colbert proved to be a great source of information and encouragement.”
During his last semester at UH, Josh took molecular biology with Dr. Paul Hardin and found himself wanting to become a molecular biologist instead of a doctor. Although he ultimately chose medicine, Josh feels Dr. Hardin’s course had a significant impact on him: “I don’t know why, but I really enjoyed that course; so much that I am interested in integrating molecular biology into my future medical practice. Dr. Hardin once told the class that molecular biology has important implications for the future of medicine and I believe him.”
Josh is deeply indebted to the professors and pre-med advisors at UH for helping him put together a successful application to medical school. Without them, he claims, “I would have been completely lost.”
Even though we have learned many things about Joshua Udoetuk, one of the most important things is something Josh just won’t talk about – how this Southerner is adjusting to the weather in the north. It’s the only thing the University of Houston couldn’t prepare him for.
© University of Houston 2004