ESL student taking steps toward doctor dreams at Brock

Growing up in Bamako, Mali, Jena Joséphine Erika Doumbia experienced the harsh realities of medical care in an impoverished country.

Her desire to create change fuelled her lifelong interest in the medical field and prompted her dreams of becoming a doctor.

Now an ESL student at Brock University, Doumbia began on her path towards helping others while attending an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, the equivalent of a high school, in her home country.

While at the IB school, she was inspired to take on a research project focused on Mali’s social approach to obstetric fistula, considered one of the most serious and tragic injuries during childbirth.

“Few countries still have cases of obstetric fistula,” Doumbia said of the condition caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without access to proper medical treatment. “Only the poorest countries have them, and this is extremely unfair to women who are victims of this. As a woman and as a person, I absolutely had to do something.”

Doumbia committed to a follow-up project, independent of the school, and raised funds for women affected by the condition by going door-to-door to local businesses. By the time her fundraising efforts were complete, she had collected enough money to care for 15 women, including testing, surgery and social reintegration.

“The IB program was certainly a springboard for the realization of my project. I wanted above all to help these women regain the life they had before,” she said.

The experience solidified Doumbia’s decision to become a doctor, and led to her researching institutions around the world for programs that fit her desired path. That’s when she discovered Brock.

“Brock is a university that reminds me of a small family,” she said. “The classrooms and campus are designed to make each student feel heard, unique and comfortable during their time at school.”

Doumbia was impressed with the wide range of services and support available for all types of students, financially as well as psychologically and academically.

Her research into the University also showed her that despite conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brock was adapting and investing in the well-being of its students. With online classes, virtual engagement opportunities and livestreams from Brock International’s Instagram account all available, Doumbia knew she’d quickly feel connected to Brock’s international community.

Before even applying to Brock, Doumbia discovered that she could communicate with current students through the Coffee with an Ambassador program.

“I took the opportunity to talk to them about many things, including clubs and student life, and even ask them for advice that would help me in the future,” she said.

Meeting with Brock’s International Student Ambassadors and learning more about the Public Health program reaffirmed her decision to choose the University.

Soon after applying, Doumbia received a conditional acceptance that required her to first strengthen her language skills to meet Brock’s English proficiency requirements to enrol in undergraduate studies. She was invited to apply to Brock’s Intensive English Language Program (IELP) to strengthen her abilities in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

“It’s been less than a month since I started the course, but I can already see the results,” she said. “These courses have allowed me to consolidate my knowledge, to express myself more confidently and to learn several aspects of the language.”

Doumbia is particularly fond of the way the course is administered and has found the opportunity to participate in group work to practise her newfound skills valuable.

“I learned new expressions, terms and words that are specific to the area,” she said. “Depending on the country or area, the accent, expressions or even the way of speaking can change. I am learning to master all of this, with the bonus of improving my notetaking, listening and comprehension.”

Upon successful completion of the IELP program, Doumbia will begin her undergraduate studies this January in Brock’s Public Health program. More importantly, she’ll be one step closer to realizing her dream of becoming a doctor.

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