HPML Student Profile: Ibekwe Aims to Improve Access and Affordability to Healthcare for Students. A Conversation with Newly Elected SGA Governor First-Year HPML Student Michael Ibekwe
Tell me a little about your background-where you grew up, studied, and any hobbies you enjoy. I grew up in Austell, Georgia and earned a degree in Exercise Physiology and Business Administration from WVU's School of Medicine. I value service to my community and have served as President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Pi Mu Chapter, a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Golden Key International Honour Society, Ronald E. McNair Scholar, and the National Society of Leadership and Success. Academically, I have worked hard to make both the Dean and Presidents' Lists and keep my 4.0 GPA. In my spare time, I enjoy working with kids, staying fit, traveling, movies and music.
Why did you choose the School of Public Health? What attracted you to Health Policy Leadership and Management (HPML)? I originally learned about WVU's School of Public Health while conducting research as an undergraduate McNair Scholar. What appealed to me most about Public Health is how diverse a field it is, and it can be applied in a variety of industries and settings. I absolutely love the HPML department. I love the fact that we learn the background of how the policy process works so that we acquire a full understanding of how policy is developed and implemented. I have gained an understanding of laws such as the Affordable Care Act, and am able to evaluate policy myself instead of listening to subjective rhetoric from third party sources. My favorite course so far has been HPML 601, Foundations of Health Policy, with Dr. Stephanie J. Frisbee. I learned so much in this class, things ranging from how healthcare is created and distributed, to the policy process, and social determinants of health. This class played a large part in my decision to run for student government.
On that subject, tell me more about why you chose to run for SGA and what you hope to achieve while in office. I chose to run for SGA, because there are going to be a lot of changes within the university regarding healthcare for the next upcoming year (mandating all students have health insurance). As the co-chair of the Student Health Advisory Board I hope I can be an asset for students. For most students this will be the first time they've ever had to manage their own health, and with my knowledge as an MPH candidate I will be able to help inform students and point them in the right direction for services they would like to see offered. Some students, especially those from rural areas of the state, may never have had the opportunity to access a quality doctor in their town, or may have had to drive an hour or so to reach the nearest dentist or physical therapist. I want to work to expand services we offer such as the Carruth Center, travel clinic, and also add services such as family planning. Mainly, I want to ensure that every student gets the quality treatment he or she deserves.
What do you see as the most pressing issues for emerging public health leaders in WV and beyond? What do you hope to do when you graduate? The most pressing issue facing public health professionals in WV, and around the world is being able to anticipate new threats. Public health leaders are responsible for keeping a watchful eye on everything from bioterrorism to clean water, and also must keep doing the routine maintenance tasks to maintain health, such as vaccinations. I'm commonly asked, what is public health? Or what do public health people do? I describe us as the offensive linemen on a football team. You never really notice us until a penalty is called, but we play one of the most important roles in protecting the quarterback, or in our case protecting the public's general welfare. When I graduate I hope to establish a career that lets me advocate for people and travel. There is no better feeling to know that your work is life changing for someone. While campaigning for student government, it was so refreshing to get so many students' input on ways to improve the University. I learned more from students in the past few weeks [campaigning] than in my 6 years here.