Chikamnele Nkwocha joins inaugural Health Equity Scholars cohort

Posted: August 5, 2021
Chikamnele Nkwocha
Nkwocha

A biomedical engineering student at The Ohio State University has been selected for the inaugural cohort of the university’s Health Equity Scholars Program.

Chikamnele Nkwocha of Akron, Ohio, will participate in one of five interprofessional teams of students and faculty mentors. Offered through a partnership of the Office of the Chief Wellness Officer, College of Nursing and the Office of Interprofessional Practice and Education, the program aims to prepare students to improve health equity in the community and health outcomes in diverse populations.

“Health advocacy is something that I am very passionate about,” said Nkwocha ’24. “The mission of the Health Equity Scholars Program aligns with my core values, which include diversity, leadership, and community. More importantly, I believed that my presence as a scholar was necessary considering how socioeconomic and racial disparities play a huge role in the realms of medicine, health and STEM.”

Nkwocha, an undergraduate with a double major in studio art, will work on a project that addresses food insecurity by using art to teach young people about healthy eating. Her team includes faculty mentor Christopher Ratfcliff, a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education, and fellow undergrad Nyan Conway, a double major in medical anthropology and Spanish.

“Health Equity Scholars are passionate, driven students and faculty who are committing themselves to improving health and well-being in our neighborhoods,” said Angela Alston, assistant professor of clinical nursing and chief diversity officer at the College of Nursing. “The pandemic has shined a bright light on inequities that have persisted for far too long, and these teams will be the first through this program to advance projects aimed at helping people live happier, healthier lives in their communities.”

“Our hopes are to commission a mural in a Columbus neighborhood that educates residents on the importance of healthy eating habits,” said Nkwocha of her project. The team’s other major goal is to partner with a Columbus youth organization to provide starter gardening kits for children while giving them the opportunity to decorate their plant containers, providing both educational and artistic engagement.

portrait of a Black woman by artist Chikamnele Nkwocha
Courtesy of Chikamnele Nkwocha

A skilled artist, Nkwocha’s work has gained national recognition including a silver prize in the 2019 NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural and Technological Scientific Olympics and gold in the 2020 Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. Her inspiration comes from expressing the pride she has in her Black identity and culture.

“My art provides a means to uplift Black voices and stories in a positive manner while also bringing about awareness and invoking a call to activism,” added Nkwocha, who shares her hand-drawn, digitally colored portraits on Instagram (@afro_empress_art).

Like her project for the Health Equity Scholars Program, Nkwocha aims to create a fusion between art and engineering in her future career, while also serving as an inspiration for other underrepresented minority women.

“I hope to one day start an engineering firm that designs hyper-realistic prosthetics for minority communities,” she said. “I am pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering and studio art, as both areas have a significantly low representation of African American women.”

The Health Equity Scholars Program formally kicks off in early September, shortly after the start of autumn semester classes. The scholar teams will engage in monthly learning events while they implement their proposed projects. The program will culminate with students presenting their work at The Ohio State University National Conference on Diversity, Race and Learning in the spring of 2022.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu