Nwanneoma (Neena) Ngonadi (Class of 2022) is a current MBA-MD dual degree student.  Outside of classes, Neena volunteers in the community or continues her work as a small business owner. Neena shared more about her experiences at the University of Virginia with the Center for Global Initiatives. In her own words:

Tell us a little about your background. What brought you to Darden and the University of Virginia at large?

I was born in Nigeria, but I grew up between Nigeria and Canada for the most part. I was a geology major before I came to UVA for medical school. At the time I enrolled as a geology major, I knew I wanted to do medicine, but I thought it was too much of a cliché to do biology or chemistry as a pre-med, so I went with something else. I ended up loving my major though, which delayed my enrollment in medicine. At some point, I wondered if I would even continue in medicine.

However, in 2015, I worked on a project with a team of geologists where we needed to significantly affect the environment. I realized I was probably in the wrong group when my team was a bit more cavalier with the proposed changes than I was comfortable with. This helped me make the decision to continue my journey to medicine. 

I came to UVA because I loved my experience on the interview day, and the people just seemed more like “my people”. 

In what ways have you become involved in the Darden/UVA/Charlottesville Community?

I volunteer quite extensively in all three of those communities, especially in the larger Charlottesville community and I have since my first day here. We get emails almost daily from/about organizations or people who need help and if I have the time, I sign up. I like to work with the shelters in town, assist with organizations that provide mental health services, and tutor premedical students from groups underrepresented in medicine.

It is impossible to overstate how much difference you can make as a healthcare provider when your patients know you outside the clinic as well. To this end, I have tried to engage extensively with the community. 

What is it like being a dual-degree student in a graduate program? Do you have any advice for those who are thinking of following the same path?

Busy, but I love it because I get to use different skill sets every day which keeps each day exciting.

As far as advice, trust your gut. I was the second oldest person in my medical school class but who cares? If you want to do it, go for it. 

For me, I love medicine, but anyone who works in healthcare can tell you it often is not enough to provide well-rounded care to patients. We tend to know what to treat patients with, but the issue is often how to get it, how to pay for it (for uninsured patients), and how to store it (for our patients with housing insecurity). I had to decide if I wanted to do public health, public policy or an MBA, and I decided on Darden because the skills from business are a bit more directly applicable. 

The William Michael Shermet Award is presented to Darden students who have demonstrated academic excellence and a positive competitive spirit in their First Year Program. As a recipient of this award, what advice do you have for Darden Students?

You will have people in your class who have PhD level education in whatever topic the case is about. This can be intimidating. Just remember that the tests and examinations will be at the level the class is taught. Listen to them so you can learn something, but for the examination, focus on what was taught in class. Make sure you understand those concepts well.

What was the most unexpected thing you’ve learned from studying at Darden?

How student-led the whole program is. Name it. There are multiple students from all walks of life who are behind every aspect of it.

How has coming to Darden expanded your global perspective?

It has reinforced for me that it really is a small world. I have met people here who I had met once before on vacation over a decade ago and never thought I’d meet again. Always be kind, people remember!