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Driven by Purpose

Rising junior Morenikeji “Keji” Ojubanire is on a mission to improve children’s health care.
By Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10


Read time: 3 minutes

Morenikeji “Keji” Ojubanire just received an email accepting her as a counselor for the University of Michigan’s Michigan Math and Science Scholars (MMSS) program over this summer. Also in her near future is an internship at Michigan Medicine’s Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Summer Internship Program, as well as her continued research assistant role for Michigan Youth Health (MYHealth).

“I wanted to take classes, too, but I don’t think I’ll have the time,” she says with a laugh.

Having just completed her sophomore year, Ojubanire can breathe for a moment and reflect on her journey so far. The pre-med student and LEAD Scholar has many proverbial irons in the fire, but there is a common thread between them and her schoolwork.

As a counselor for MMSS, she introduces high school students to cutting-edge developments in the math and science fields they’ll be studying in college. For the CHEAR summer internship, she will receive direct mentorship from Susan J. Woolford, MPH’06, and hands-on pediatric research experience.

And Ojubanire’s involvement in MYHealth — a health-sciences research preparatory program for high school students — goes back to when she was a high schooler herself at the University High School Academy in Southfield, Michigan.

“I was an intern during my junior and senior years in a research program called MyVoice,” says Ojubanire. MyVoice is a University-developed text message-based survey platform that asks young people their views on health and well-being topics. “My first year at U-M, I used my networks and found out about MYHealth as a sibling program to MyVoice. So now, at MYHealth, I teach high schoolers about the research methods that career scientists use.”

Ojubanire is also active with the Black Undergraduate Medical Association, volunteers with Dance Marathon’s activities for kids at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and is helping to charter a U-M chapter of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine as the group’s director of outreach.

“We started the process in January. I’m leading our next activity: making handmade cards for the hospitalized children and the families at Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor,” she says.

To top it off, she recently joined the optiMize program, which works with U-M students to hone their professional skills and incubates their big social-impact ideas for grants upwards of $10,000.

“My passion, the one thing I really want to do in life, is address and eliminate disparities in children’s health care,” she says. “I’m planning to pitch [an idea] next year, which is what a lot of this summer will prepare me for.”

All that, and Ojubanire will also have the Medical College Admission Test to prepare for. When asked what drives her to pursue so much, she contemplates before answering.

“I feel it’s a habit because I’m a second-generation immigrant, being born in Michigan. My parents came to the U.S. from Nigeria for me and my three brothers. It’s this urge to be successful and take every opportunity that I can to be successful. Not just for my family, but for myself, too.”

But there is a little more to it.

“During my first year at U-M, one of my brothers passed away. That’s also a reason I do a lot of things,” she says. Her brother attended Michigan State University for his undergraduate education and was in the midst of his master’s program at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“He didn’t get to finish his schooling,” Ojubanire says. “So I want to finish what he started.”

Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10, is the senior associate editor of Michigan Alum.

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