Hezouwe Walada grew up in the small village of Koumea, which is located near the city of Kara, in Togo, West Africa. This spring he will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a certificate in global health. In this Q&A with CALS, Walada discusses the early life events that led him to want to become a physician, as well as his research and study abroad experiences at UW. During college, he also started a micro-loan plan and a youth association in his home village, where he plans to establish a health care center in the future.
Why did you choose your major?
I decided to become a physician when I was seven during a malaria epidemic in my village Koumea. One-third of the people in my village died, including three cousins. My education, therefore, became very important to me. I have always had a passion for math and science, and choosing biochemistry as my major was a logical approach from my point of view due to the fact that it is the foundation of medicine and is therefore crucial for my future career as a physician. During my academic path at UW-Madison, learning about chemical reactions at the molecule level has helped me understand the chemical and physicochemical processes that occur in living organisms. In addition to my biochemistry degree, I am also receiving a global health certificate. The certificate is especially meaningful to me and my goal is to help communities improve access to healthcare as well as resources for people to have access to healthy food, water and information.
What other activities were you involved in?
I am part of a research team in the Kimble Lab in the Department of Biochemistry. In the Kimble Lab, I have learned about stem cell regulation, the regulation of gene expression, and the importance of model organisms. In 2022, I received a Biochemistry Undergraduate Summer Research Award to support my research in the Kimble Lab. This allowed me to have the time and focus for an in-depth research experience. I also presented my research in a poster at the 2022 C. elegans topic meeting “Development, Cell Biology, and Gene Expression” in Madison, WI.
During my time as a student at UW-Madison, I continued my work as a caregiver which gave me tremendous experience with a wide variety of patients, including people with disabilities and mental illness.
In addition to helping my community in Madison by being a caregiver for people who really needed help, I have also been able to help my community in Togo by starting a village microloan plan and a Youth Association in Koumea. I am happy that these plans are helping the village and I was honored that the village chiefs recognized and encouraged my ideas.
What are your future academic and/or career plans?
My short-term career plan is to work in a research clinic after graduation. My long-term goal is to become a physician. As a physician, my goal is to help my communities in both the United States and Togo. In Togo, my goal is to improve health care in my small village by starting a local health care center.
What were the most valuable/meaningful college experiences you had?
As part of the global health certificate program, I participated in the UW Agriculture, Health, and Nutrition in Uganda study abroad program. This was a life-changing trip: I was excited to learn new ideas from the Ugandan healthcare system and to see how ideas I’ve been thinking about work to improve health and health care for communities.
When you think about your time here as a student, what are you proud of?
One of my proudest accomplishments was acceptance into the University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate program and now becoming a graduate.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with CALS students?
My advice for CALS students is to be persistent, resilient and always ask for help whenever they need it because they are here to learn.