The University of Iowa

Student spotlight: Onyeche Oche

November 3rd, 2021

Onyeche Oche, PhD student in the UI College of Pharmacy, had several admission offers from other pharmacy programs, but chose the University of Iowa after meeting with faculty members who Oche says, “…saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.” Learn more about Oche below.

Onyeche Oche in front of the UI Old Capitol Building

Onyeche Oche in front of the Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa campus

What prompted you to pursue a PhD (pharmacy) at the University of Iowa after working in both Nigeria and the United States in pharmacy and healthcare administration roles?

Several reasons informed my decision to pursue a PhD in pharmacy (with a specialization in health services research) at the University of Iowa, and time might not permit me to go into them all. The most practical one though, was job-security related. Having completed a master’s degree and working for some years in the U.S., I considered a situation where if I had to go back to my home country – which has a very competitive job market - an MBA degree in health care administration would be insufficient to give me the type of job that I wanted in academia/consulting.

Also, knowing that research, teaching, and mentoring were things that I enjoyed, I was actively looking for an opportunity to pursue those interests fully. Although I got fully funded offers for the same program at other universities, the decision to come to the University of Iowa was quite easy because interviewing with the health services research faculty showed me something truly special…that they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I just knew in my gut that I had to come here and have had no reasons to regret that decision.

What are your research interests? Are you currently working in a research capacity on campus?

My research interests are varied and include social justice, health equity, health care access for vulnerable populations, process improvement, and implementation science. I work as a graduate research assistant with an amazing advisor, Dr. Korey Kennelty, in the health services research division of the UI College of Pharmacy.

The UI College of Pharmacy has a new building. Do you have thoughts on how the new building will enhance your experience as a student?

When you think of studying for a pharmacy degree, many factors, not excluding the study environment, play a big role in the enjoyment of that activity. Our new building is aesthetically appealing, well-equipped, quiet, and spacious – qualities that make reading and research more enjoyable. In my opinion, the building creates the right kind of atmosphere that not only makes a student want to succeed but also provides an abundance of resources to make success achievable. When you add sound training from excellent faculty to our fantastic research environment, the sky really is the starting point, not the limit, for future pharmacy graduates from the UI College of Pharmacy.

You currently serve as the grad board secretary of ISAB. Can you tell us about this role?

ISAB (the International Student Advisory Board) focuses on advocacy for international students’ needs. As the ISAB grad board secretary, I have note-taking and record-keeping assignments, lead the recruitment and selection effort of new members, and oversee the compilation of an annual report for ISAB accomplishments. I would like to be known as someone who served diligently and passionately, and look forward to putting in place a sustainable recruitment process that ensures the most qualified students are selected to various offices.

You also serve as a Senator with the UI Graduate Student Senate. Can you tell us about this role?

I am the chair of the International Students Committee at the UI Graduate Student Senate. It is a role that involves working with other committee members to come up with programs or events that are beneficial to international students. One thing that would be a dream come true for me would be to organize a job fair where employers who are interested in hiring international students could come to campus and recruit them on the spot. Iowa City is a great place to live, and I know many international students who want to remain here after their education but are making plans to leave for bigger cities because they do not know local companies who are interested in hiring them. By identifying local companies that have this interest and connecting them with international student graduates through a job fair, I believe that talent retention in the area would be greatly enhanced. 

Onyeche Oche on a swing at a local Iowa farm

Onyeche Oche on a swing at a local Iowa farm

Are you involved with other organizations on campus or in the community as a member, volunteer, or other?

On campus, I am on the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee of the College of Pharmacy, a graduate student senate delegate (GSS) representing the biomedical sciences at the GPSG (Graduate and Professional Student Government), a GPSG grant reviewer, and a student member of the Graduate Council. Although I am still new in my role with the Collegiate DEI, one of our assignments this semester is to come up with a mission statement; as a GSS delegate to the GPSG, voting on issues affecting graduate and professional students is a central part of what I do; as a GPSG grant reviewer, I score and rank grant applications, providing a basis for the students’ projects that receive funding; and providing a student perspective on issues, as well as voting for changes to graduate college policies and procedures, are some of my responsibilities as a graduate council member.

What do you plan to do after you complete your PhD?

This is a question that I have asked myself several times. After this…what next? I am not quite sure yet, but I am optimistic that things will get clearer as I continue to make progress towards completing the degree. Whichever path I choose (academia/industry), I plan to be involved in mentoring young people, especially international students.

Are you enjoying your time in Iowa City?

Absolutely! I enjoy nature and love taking long walks at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and other parks in Iowa City. I also like to visit local farms and had a blast swinging on an old swing set when I visited one farm over the summer! Another activity that I enjoy is going on outings with other international students to places of interest in the area. Some of these events are organized by a group called International Neighbors, and two places that I have visited with the group include an Amish farm just outside of Iowa City, where we went on a hayrack ride, and Lake Macbride, where we went hiking. One of my best spots in Iowa City is a downtown restaurant called The Encounter Café. I enjoy the food, ambience, and fantastic customer service every single time I go there.

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