Tolulope Teniola is a 24-year-old Nigerian-American medical student studying at Duke University School of Medicine. Tolu has been able to travel and move frequently, allowing her to divulge in different cultures and ethnicities. Tolu is our WCW because of her determination, motivation, and persistence to help and give back to others.
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
My story revolves completely around the grace of God. It was grace that allowed my family to be picked out of millions for the Visa lottery that allotted us to all move to America with our green card. Upon arriving to America, we moved around a lot. I attended 6 different elementary schools in three different states before the 5th grade. This constant moving allowed me to be more open to different cultures and to appreciate the diversity within this country.
2. What motivates you?
My parents, hands down. Prior to moving here, my mom was a self-sufficient businesswoman who was able to provide us with enough money to move to America comfortably. My father was a practicing gastroenterologist. After the relocation, my mother had to work as a mail delivery woman in a sky scraper with over 20 floors. My father, unable to practice, had to retake his major exam and basically restart his entire residency at the age of 43. Watching them, taught me humility and even more taught me the importance of hard work and dedication. Through their struggle, my devotion to being as successful as I could became very important. I wanted their transition here to America to be worth it.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
I have so many heroes in my life. There is no possible way I could just pick one! The obvious ones would be EACH and every one of my family members. Jesus Christ (literally, he saved my life). Then, I HAVE to throw in Michelle Obama because she is the true definition grace, intelligence and elegance. My closest friends are also my heroes. Day in and day out they come and rescue me out of the many crazy and not so smart decisions that I make or try to make. It’s funny how our steps are ordered, because they always find a way to lead us to individuals that help to shape the building blocks of our lives.
4. Give us a road map of your career. How did you get to where you are today?
I was not interested in pursuing a degree in Medicine AT ALL, but 2004 changed everything. Within three days, my grandmother and the pastor of my church passed away. The loss rocked everyone around me and it ignited a fire within me to know more. I wanted to understand the pathogenesis of the disease and the intricate workings of the human body. I needed to know if anything could have been done to change the fate of my loved ones.
I went to an amazing high school, however, in terms of preparing me for where I wanted to go, it fell a bit subpar. Therefore, I knew that I had to work harder and study longer in order to make myself competitive. Luckily through grace, I was able to graduate at the top of my class and attend The University of Georgia. At UGA I fell in love with the beauty of humble service. Also, ignited within me, was the desire to see more people who look like me pursue careers in the S.T.E.M. fields (Science Technology Engineering and Math). A group of friends and I worked hard to develop Project RAISE. Project RAISE was geared at increasing diversity and encouraging mentorship for students pursuing STEM majors.
Now I am here at Duke University School of Medicine, completely humbled by how far the grace of God has gotten me. I know that I was brought here for a reason, and every time I see a new patient, I am reminded of that again and again.
5. What's your future plan? Your goals?
My future plans include paying Sallie Mae back for all she has given me lol
Right now, I want to pursue Anesthesiology as my career choice. This however, can change. I’ve fallen in love with too many fields in medicine and can see myself doing a plethora of different things. One thing that is very crucial to whatever career I choose is that it has to be able to transcend the borders of this country. I think there are large underserved populations in the world and too many people die from very curable diseases. I feel that since I am blessed with the opportunity to truly impact change, I should use the gift wisely.
6. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Choose the people whom you want around very carefully! I can not reiterate that enough. Your friendship circle is paramount. These are the people that can either build you up or break you down. I’ve been blessed with really amazing people and I know that if it had not been for these people helping me to wake up on time for classes, not forget important deadlines and to always live a balanced life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
7. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
2016 was one hell of a year. If you didn’t feel passionate about something before this year started, you do now. I respect and support the Black Lives Matter Movement, but I think at the core I stand for another movement that I dub, “ignorance-should-not-be-an-excuse.” I think it’s about time for Americans to become more educated on true social issues and learn how to respect the differences that arise in different people. Even more, it is inexcusable for individuals to be discriminated against based on things that are outside of their control. You cannot blame your lack of knowledge or your fear on the reason you choose to destroy or negatively impact the life of an innocent individual. I think its incorrect to think that people shouldn’t see color or race. My race says a lot about my background, my experiences and my view on life. Acknowledging it and respecting it will help open lines of understanding and communication. It’s a common saying that people fear that which they do not know. Well, why not force yourself to know more and fear less?
8. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
Heights scare me. Planes are my worse nightmare. Rollercoasters are despicable creations lol. However, even in the midst of all of this, I chose to go parasailing a few months ago. It was so cool. Granted the entire time I was up in the air I was confessing all my sins and basically crying, but being up there, and seeing the vastness of the ocean, made me just appreciate the beauty of it all. I think that experience sparked a desire in me to venture outside of my comfort zone and really experience the world in a new way. I’ve thus created this awesome list of to-do items. Next on the list: skiing.
9. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.
Outside of my career there are few other things that I want to do!
- Publish my very own book.
- Become an interior decorator - My favorite past time is literally watching “HGTV.” I think it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.
- Finally learn how to swim (Don’t judge me! Titanic was my favorite movie when I was younger and it seriously scarred me from ever going near large bodies of water).
If you would like to reach out to Tolulope Teniola for mentoring/networking opportunities, you can reach her HERE.