STEVENS POINT – Victor Chukwuemeka, Stevens Point, met the right person at the right time during a visit to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point a few years ago.
He was taking nursing classes, but it wasn’t a good fit. He knew he wanted to help people and work in healthcare. With his brother George attending UW-Stevens Point and his stepfather, Associate Professor Kele Anyanwu, who teaches here, he came to campus looking for someone to talk to about his options.
Michael Schulfer, a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS), and in doing so, found a mentor and lifelong friend as well as a career path.
He said, “I remember the day we met.” Michelle didn’t know me, but she picked up her coat and gave me a tour of the campus. She told me about the clinical laboratory specialty and as I learned, I became more interested.”
“I took him to the Student Services Center to help him get the signatures he needed for the transfer,” Schulfer said. “He was so grateful for everything—that’s a rarity. My heart breaks for him. He was such a sweet young man. I enjoyed his grateful attitude, and in all the years I’ve known him, it never weakened.”
This May, Chukwuemeka graduated with a degree in CLS and a full-time job as a medical laboratory scientist at Aspirus Stevens Point Hospital, working as an intake scientist while attending classes. He hopes to go back to school and become a physician assistant in the future.
Chukwuemeka has all the qualifications to work in the healthcare and laboratory fields, Schulfer said. She said lab workers are the unsung heroes of the hospital environment, where 70 percent of diagnoses are created in the lab.
“Victor cares about the patient and the quality of work,” she said. “This is vital. He is kind, compassionate and empathetic. He knows every specimen that comes in is sick and it is not just a number. He has such a deep respect for people.”
His life experiences, she said, make him someone who thrives in a lab. Chukwuemeka witnessed a family member with sickle cell anemia, who was the subject of his major project at UW-Stevens Point. He was also inspired for his career goal after he and his family moved to the United States from Nigeria when he was 18 years old.
He attended Stevens Point Area High School for two years to help with his English skills and general education credits, then attended technical college before transferring to UW-Stevens Point.
Chukwuemeka’s decision to major in the CLS was cemented as Shulfer was the coach for his first season. Among his goals was completing a minor in military science as a non-commissioned officer, which added to his challenges. Schulfer worked with him when he struggled and helped him get a clinical internship at Aspiros that fit into his schedule.
“Michelle was a godsend,” he said. “She was an amazing mentor and counsellor. She set me on my own path.”
Chukwuemeka enjoys CLS because it encourages critical thinking. “In the lab you can see what a patient is going through by looking at the lab results. You help doctors figure out a diagnosis. I love being a part of that patient care.”
“It was a lot of work, but he was faithful to his goals,” Schulfer said. One of them became a US citizen. “He was so proud of it, he showed me pictures from that day. I was proud of him too. He represents America so well.”
Chukwuemeka’s brother, George, also graduated in May with a degree in chemical engineering. Their younger brother, Justice, also attends UW-Stevens Point, majoring in computer science. It was a great experience for the brothers.
“WSU is family oriented,” Victor said. “It has an environment where you can interact with the teachers and form a personal relationship with them.”
Schulfer said that although she has a great relationship with all of her students, she felt an immediate connection with Victor. “We were meant to meet in our paths, and we were meant to help each other along the way.
“It helped me learn gratitude,” she said. “It’s someone who takes it all in and finds hope and gratitude. That’s a rare ability. If you’re grateful, you’re not thinking of yourself, you’re thinking of others. That’s Victor.”
Source: UW-Stevens Point