Three USAP Students Graduate From Harvard Med

Today we celebrate a remarkable feat that can be summarized in a simple headline: Harvard Medical School graduates three Zimbabwean USAP students.  Dr. Fallon Chipidza.  Dr. Portia Chipendo. Dr. Emmanuel Magara.

Fallon attended Vainona High before getting a scholarship to complete A level at Regina Mundi in Gweru where she became the Headgirl.  Portia was at Seke 1 High in Chitungwiza before a scholarship landed her at Gateway High and she went on to Wesleyan University.  Emmanuel “Manu” was a community service mover and shaker at Goromonzi and then continued to Oberlin.  Three individuals who exemplify the term resilience, living examples of how determination and belief in dreams can propel you forward onto the road to make them come true.  Three USAP Zimbabweans who give us hope for the future of health care in this country.

May 2006: I still can vividly picture them sitting in the cold auditorium, smart in their crisp uniform blazers, full of dreams and excited at the prospects.  Fallon, her height noticeable and the fire in her eyes lighting up one side of the room, states clearly, “I am going to be a doctor.   I am going to go to one of the top medical schools, bring back the skills and stop some of the unnecessary deaths in Zimbabwe.”  How do I tell her that it’s near impossible for international students to get into and secure the funding to attend medical school in the U.S.?  How do I not raise “unrealistic” expectations, as I’ve been warned by my colleagues.

My mind flashes to the others, the USAPers who have sat in the same auditorium preparing for SATs who share that same dream and can recite to me the long challenging road they plan to travel that they’ve only read about – pre-med studies, MCATs, medical school, residency…. George, Tariro, Portia, Emmanuel, the list goes on…  Every conference I attend, every publication I read says medical school cannot happen for international students who do not have their own funding, so where does that leave USAPers with this dream?

They hang onto the success of the pioneer, Dr. Tafadzwa Muguwe, a USAP student who went to Swarthmore, then to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and after those accolades landed a spot at Harvard Medical School.  “If he did it, so can we,” they insist. “Amai, you told us nothing is impossible,” they remind me.  

And so today, my smile is maybe not wider, but deeper – I think of that headline again: Harvard Medical School graduates three Zimbabwean USAP students. I give thanks to these remarkable three who today remind me that indeed, nothing is impossible.  #USAPRocks

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