Chiomah Ezeomah already knows she wants a career in clinical research. She also knows that Weill Cornell Medicine can take her there.
Chiomah has always been a high-achieving student. An advanced honors scholar at the Honors College at the University at Buffalo, she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in mathematics-economics and a B.Sc. in biological sciences. Upon graduation, she joined the Galveston National Laboratory as a research associate and research project coordinator focusing on virology research. While working on a study investigating the association between hearing loss and Lassa fever, an endemic disease in Chiomah’s home country of Nigeria, she encountered some roadblocks in the design process. “I realized that I did not fully understand the intricacies of designing clinical studies and analyzing the data generated from such studies,” she recalled. “My faculty sponsor, Professor David Walker, helped me redesign the experiment and encouraged me to think about the outcomes I wanted and ensuring the design fit the purpose.” Throughout their discussions, Chiomah became increasingly interested in pursuing a master’s degree in biostatistics and data science to improve her data analysis skills. “Overall, I wanted to know how to design meaningful clinical experiments so that important policy and clinical decisions can be made based on sound results.”
When it came to choosing a program, Chiomah had three criteria: no longer than one year (she plans on going to medical school after), a competitive environment, and a faculty involved in diverse research areas. The Master of Science program in the Department of Population Health Sciences had it all.
Chiomah is enrolled in the biostatistics and data science track and has found the courses both intense and rewarding. One of Chiomah’s favorite courses so far has been “Study Design,” taught by Dr. Linda Gerber. “The class was beautifully taught. I learned about retrospective, prospective cohort, and case-control studies as well as clinical trials – I want to go into vaccine development, so those topics are very relevant for my future,” she related. Chiomah also became confident in her coding skills after getting her hands dirty programming in the “Biostatistics I”, “Data Science I” and “Statistical Programming with SAS” courses, taught by Dr. Karla Ballman, Dr. Elizabeth Sweeney and Dr. Zhengming Chen respectively. “The courses were demanding and rigorous, but if you put in the time and effort, you will learn a lot,” she emphasized. The program cohort was also what made the program so rewarding for Chiomah: “I love my classmates. They are very driven, and we’ve been able to challenge each other.”
Chiomah’s passion comes from her experience growing up in Nigeria, where she witnessed wage inequalities and wavering social structures. Interested in helping vulnerable populations, she knows that accessible healthcare can have an equalizing effect: “I can’t improve people’s income-earning abilities overnight, but I can design a vaccine that helps them stay healthier. It also means that the healthcare systems are not as burdened.” Chiomah has big goals after graduation – she plans to enroll in a joint M.D./Ph.D. program with a focus on immunology. Reflecting on her future, she holds her faith close to her heart: “I feel that God has had a hand in my journey. I am very grateful for that opportunity, and I hope He gets me to my final destination in life.”