Small Classes, Close Collaboration With Professors
And a Feeling of Community Helped a Dedicated, Talented Student Find His Career Path
Clinton Ehidom has come a long way in the four years since he was an ambitious but underachieving freshman at York College.
Ehidom had emigrated to the Bronx from Nigeria when he was 12 and full of promise. He’d had a strong primary education in his home country, did well enough to skip a grade and arrived here hoping to become a doctor one day. His performance in high school, though, didn’t match his aspiration. He says he was an indifferent student at Fredrick Douglass Academy III in the Bronx and graduated with a C+ average.
But something clicked when Ehidom began college at York. And now, about to turn 20, he’ll graduate as a biology major with a perfect science GPA and his dreams fully intact: He’s been accepted by six medical schools and counting.
“I knew I had to change my mindset,” Ehidom says of his entry to college at 16, and he credits York with sparking his transformation. “The more experiences I had at York College, the more I knew I was right in my decision to come here. It’s having this close collaboration with professors and small class sizes. The community feel at York College also sets it apart. The students are amazing.”
Ehidom lives in the Bronx with his father and two younger siblings, both of whom also are aspiring physicians. His mother remains in Nigeria, pursuing a doctorate in public administration. It was from that family background that Ehidom found his way forward. He became a dedicated student and looked for ways to make himself a strong contender for medical school when the time came.
“He came in with a pretty clear plan about what he wanted to do,” recalled Andrew Criss, York’s premedical adviser, who met Ehidom in his freshman year. “He was in my anatomy and physiology course and, as usual, he got an A. I also worked closely with him as he took over the presidency of the premed club during fall of 2016.”
After his sophomore year, Ehidom participated in a coveted six-week summer program at Yale School of Medicine that prepares students from underrepresented groups to successfully apply to medical school. Among other experiences, he shadowed a physician to get a fuller understanding of a doctor’s daily work and life.
Meanwhile, at York, Ehidom met Francisco Villegas, an associate professor of behavioral science who studies Alzheimer’s disease, and asked to volunteer in his lab. “Students have to give me all they have,” Villegas says. “They have to put in the hours or they don’t come back.”
Ehidom proved to be just that kind of passionate student and soon he was helping Villegas design a study testing whether a procedure known as deep brain stimulation improved the performance of rats in tasks requiring sustained attention. Villegas says Ehidom was a hands-on presence during the first round of the experiment. “Clinton is motivated and focused,” he said. “He never gives up.”
Criss adds, “Everybody raves about him, saying ‘He’s the best student I’ve ever had.’ He goes out of his way to help other students” – mentoring, tutoring in biology and chemistry, and even organizing study groups for the entire anatomy and physiology lab.
“He’s younger than his classmates, which makes his maturity and work ethic even more impressive,” Criss says. “You know he’s going on to great things.”
Ehidom’s dedication has paid off in medical school acceptance letters. So far, he’s gotten good news from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, Stony Brook University School of Medicine and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Ehidom says he’s leaning toward cardiothoracic surgery as a specialty but acknowledges that may change as his medical education progresses. Meanwhile, he looks back at his four years of undergraduate study with modesty, along with gratitude for the support of teachers like Jong-Ill Lee in chemistry and Margaret MacNeil in biology. “I got a lot of help from professors and that is why I came this far,” he says.
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 272,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.