At the age of four, Chetachi Odelugo, DO '20, began to notice that playing wasn’t as easy for her as it was for other kids. “I was suffering from severe asthma. I now have airways remodeling,” shared Ms. Odelugo. “I was restricted with playing outside and on several occasions I ended up in the emergency room. During these difficult times, I was comforted by physicians who took the time to explain to me what was happening,” said Ms. Odelugo. “I had had my fair share of hospital visits and it was much more comforting to know the physician was talking to me and not just my mom.” The experience of having clear lines of communication between a doctor and a patient would remain a focal point throughout Ms. Odelugo’s life.
After completing the her master of science in biomedical sciences program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ms. Odelugo knew that pursuing her medical degree was the next step. From her first year at PCOM, Ms. Odelugo was very involved with the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), a national organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color. It was through this and other organizations at PCOM that Ms. Odelugo was able to mentor other medical students, as well as those looking to explore careers in the medical field.
Most recently, Ms. Odelugo served on the Board of Directors of the SNMA as the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee. In this role, Ms. Odelugo worked closely with academic resource companies to provide appropriate resources to medical students across the country, as well as to implement diversity and inclusion guidelines for healthcare companies nationwide.
As the oldest child in her family, Ms. Odelugo has always been a wise older sister for relatives and non-relatives alike. “I have always been a communicator,” shared Ms. Odelugo. “I love building connections with people.” One of the accomplishments from her work with the SNMA for which she is most proud is the Bridge Program she helped to organize and implement.
“Particularly as it relates to minority students, there are not enough resources available for those who do not meet the traditional requirements for medical school,” said Ms. Odelugo. “A student may have great credentials but less-than-spectacular test scores and fail to be accepted into medical school on their first attempt. We work with students like this to get them involved in the healthcare field with real, salary-paying work, as they continue to pursue their dream of studying medicine.” She went on to add, “One of my passions in life has been opening up the lines of communication, particular for people who are going through struggles in medical education. I try to show that there are options available to them. Sometimes people prefer to suffer in silence, but a quick conversation can change the course of a problem completely.”
Her focus on understanding and connecting with those she serves was one of the primary reasons she chose to pursue internal medicine. “Internal Medicine [physicians] have first contact with the patient, and we follow them from beginning to end. You work with your patients to get them the best answers,” shared Ms. Odelugo. After graduation, Ms. Odelugo will begin her residency at Franciscan Health in Olympia Fields, Illinois.
Ms. Odelugo’s legacy at PCOM has been solidified in the network of fellow students she has mentored during her time here. When asked for a piece of advice for future medical students, Ms. Odelugo shared, “Medicine is not a competition. You need to work with your peers as well as focusing on self-growth. Work to understand those who are different than you and who will help you become a better physician.”
Ms. Odelugo is originally from East Orange, New Jersey. She received her bachelor of arts in Spanish from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.