Compassionate Caregiver to Military Medic: Christiana Obioma's Path to Medical School

New section

“Do not rush the application process. It is okay if you do not follow the traditional application timeline as everyone’s journey is unique. The important thing is having a strong application that highlights your unique path to becoming a physician.”

Headshot of Christiana O.
Christiana Obioma

Medical School: University of Oklahoma College of Medicine
Expected Graduation Year: Expected Graduation — 2023
College & Major: University of Central Oklahoma, Major in Biomedical Science, Minor in Chemistry

New section


  • Christiana was born and raised in Aba, Nigeria, where she witnessed friends and family struggle to manage illnesses due to their underresourced healthcare system. 
  • At the age of 17, Christiana moved to the United States to attend The University of Central Oklahoma, where she studied biomedical science and chemistry. 
  • During her junior year of college, Christiana enlisted in the U.S. Army, becoming an emergency medical technician in the 469th ground ambulance unit.
  • Following her training as an Army medic, and while completing classes at the University of Central Oklahoma, Christiana volunteered at Manos Juntas, a clinic in Oklahoma dedicated to helping underserved populations.
  • Christiana also shadowed three physicians in three different specialties: family medicine, orthopedic surgery, and cardiology following her training as an Army medic.
  • After graduation, Christiana took a glide/gap year to strengthen her application and gain additional clinical experience. During this time, she worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a laboratory quality control specialist at a medical diagnostic manufacturer.

MCAT® Score/GPA/Coursework

Christiana Obioma had a strong academic science record, majoring in biomedical science with a minor in chemistry. Early on, she knew she wanted to pursue medicine, so she sought the advice of Dr. Caroline Bentley, associate professor of biology and health professions advisor at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). Dr. Bentley advised Christiana on appropriate courses to take in order to fulfill common medical school prerequisites. Christiana also took “Introduction to Health Professions,” a course taught by Dr. Bentley, designed to help students complete applications to health professions schools.

Christiana frequently met with Dr. Bentley to discuss her application to medical school. Dr. Bentley noted in her comments to the AAMC that “Christiana is one of the rare ones who embodies all the characteristics you would like to see in a doctor, but she does so with grace. She will be a strong role model and leader in the health care community.”

Christiana sat for the MCAT® exam during her last semester of undergrad, since she had planned for a glide/gap year after graduation. Since she was not confident in her score after her first sitting, she enrolled in a part-time prep course and also used 
free study resources from the AAMC to further prepare. Two months after her first test, she took the MCAT again and improved her score. Although she didn’t ultimately hit her target, her performance on the second exam, in combination with the rest of her application and experiences, made her a competitive candidate.  

Anatomy of an Applicant, Christiana O, Core Competencies
Christiana with her colleagues and fellow members of the Student National Medical Association (OUHSC Chapter) at the ‘White Coat for Black Lives’ event organized last semester.


Growing up in Aba, Nigeria, Christiana witnessed her loved ones’ struggle with illnesses, including her grandmother who battled diabetes and her childhood friend who suffered from sickle cell anemia. Unfortunately, inadequate healthcare resources made treating these conditions challenging. The local hospital had inadequate equipment, limited staff, and unreliable electricity. It had a 25% unemployment rate. Despite these limitations, the local physicians and nurses provided an immense amount of compassion and care. They went above and beyond to offer emotional support to their patients. This was the foundation of the inspiration for Christiana to pursue a medical career. She hoped one day she could give back to the community that raised her by improving access to quality care.  

Christiana moved to the United States at the age of 17 to study biomedical science at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). She chose UCO due to its diverse student body and its location in Edmond, OK, which had been ranked in a magazine she read as one of the safest cities in the U.S.

During her freshman year, Christiana attended a friend’s U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, which ignited her interest in joining the military.  She shared, “I admired the discipline and respect I observed from the graduates. I wanted to be a part of the military and serve a country that had given me an opportunity to pursue my dreams.” During her sophomore year, Christiana met with an Army recruiter on her college campus and enlisted early during her junior year. She took the next two semesters off while she trained to become an emergency medical technician with the 
469th Ground Ambulance Unit.

As an Army medic, Christiana worked with an ambulance crew to transport patients from their point of injury to a medical facility for advanced care. She learned to administer saline and oxygen, communicate with patients, and maintain medical equipment in the ambulances. She also learned how to work under pressure, sharing, “In order to graduate we had to complete tasks such as administering intravenous saline in less than five minutes or applying a combat application tourniquet under thirty seconds. Going over the time by one second was considered failing.” She also became more experienced in collaborating with diverse teams to accomplish a common goal. “Our backgrounds notwithstanding, we worked together and treated each other with respect. By putting the needs of my patients and the U.S. Army first, I have learned what selfless service truly means,” said Christiana.

She explained, “From not taking showers for days at a time to sleeping in foxholes while being out in the field, I learned to adjust to discomfort. I appreciated the smaller things in life, such as sleeping on an actual bed. I will be forever grateful for the lessons I have learned, and the lessons I will continue to learn from serving in the Army.” Her transition from civilian to military life demonstrated to the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine’s admissions committee Christiana’s ability to build mental strength and resilience.

After completing Army medic training, Christiana returned to UCO and resumed meeting regularly with her prehealth advisor. It was through Dr. Bentley that she learned about a volunteer opportunity at Manos Juntas, a clinic that provides free healthcare to medically underserved populations in the Oklahoma City area. As a volunteer, Christiana triaged patients, packaged medications in the pharmacy, and obtained patient histories. The experience resonated with her and deepened her desire to improve healthcare inequities. “Listening to some of the patients' stories regarding the challenges, especially financial, they faced with accessing healthcare reminded me of my experiences as an adolescent in Nigeria,” she said.  “My compassion and desire to help alleviate some of the health care inadequacies deepened from my interactions with them.”

Dr. Bentley provided Christiana with a list of multiple physicians and their contact information, which led to Christiana contacting the orthopedic department for the OU College of Medicine and connecting to Dr. Betsy Nolan, an orthopedic surgeon whom Christiana then shadowed. Additionally, Christiana contacted local clinics and hospitals and asked if there were physicians open to have her shadow them. Her efforts paid off when she connected with Dr. Matthew Dowell, a family medicine physician, and Dr. Schiffedecker Branislav, a cardiologist, who both allowed her to shadow them. “Interacting with the patients at the clinics and observing as the physicians treated their patients with compassion further convinced me that becoming a physician was the right career path for me,” she said. The physicians Christiana shadowed continued to serve as mentors and offered her guidance throughout the medical school application process.

To gain more clinical experience, Christiana started working part-time as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the 
Embark Statesman Club, a senior living facility in Oklahoma City. Her work as a CNA broadened her clinical exposure and further demonstrated competencies in science and service orientation. “There have been instances where I have assisted terminally ill or hospice patients with activities of daily living. During one encounter with a dying female patient, she made me understand the importance of 'simple things' I did such as smiling, holding her hands, listening to her, and body language,” said Christiana.

During her senior year at UCO Christiana participated in a research project on wound healing under the guidance of biology professor Dr. Melville Vaughan. This project studied the effect of near-infrared lasers and glycated chitosan used to accelerate wound healing. Christiana presented this research at The Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation conference (OK-LSAMP) and the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. She was also the primary author for the manuscript published in the 
Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Journal of Biomedical Optics. UCO students applying to medical school are able to obtain assistance from the school’s Pre-Health Committee, which prepares students for applying to medical school. This committee wrote a letter of recommendation for Christiana and helped her to prepare for the interview process with mock interviews. During her glide/gap year, Christiana worked as a quality control specialist at a global medical diagnostic manufacturer, examining fungal testing products before approval for public distribution.

Personal Statement

Anatomy of an Applicant, Christiana O, Core Competencies
Christiana's parents and siblings

Christiana’s personal statement told the story of the evolution of her interest in medicine. She described her experience growing up in Nigeria and highlighted the various ways she was exposed to health care and how this exposure confirmed her love for medicine. Through each of these experiences, she demonstrated compassion, service, and leadership. As Dr. Bentley described it, “Through her personal statement, it was evident that she conquered a number of life challenges — such as moving to a new country, enlisting in the army, and supporting herself financially — with grace and resiliency.”

Letters of Evaluation

Christiana chose letter writers who could speak to her academic abilities and aptitude in the sciences. She chose Dr. Melville Vaughn, with whom she worked on a yearlong research project, as well as two other science professors who knew her well. To help her writers, she provided her resume and personal statement.

Additionally, her school’s prehealth committee wrote a letter on her behalf and provided further context about her background, accomplishments, the challenges she’d overcome, and her motivation for pursuing medicine.


To prepare for her interviews, Christiana reviewed her application, reflected on her previous experiences and participated in mock interviews with her peers, mentors, and the premed committee. She also researched common interview formats used by medical schools.

Christiana’s advises “be yourself on interview day” and reflect on your “why” for becoming a physician. She also advises applicants to “be prepared to discuss any part of your experiences or what you included in your application during the interview.”

Christiana on Why She Chose the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

Christiana chose the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine due to its emphasis on service, compassionate care, and diversity and inclusion. She also liked their “module system,” which organizes students into small groups (approximately 16) for each academic rotation. “I knew the module system would foster teamwork and enable me to build lifelong connections with my future classmates,” she related.

She further noted the warmth and friendliness of current medical students, sharing, “On my interview day, the current students facilitated events such as a mini suture clinic and a campus tour. The students I met at these events made me feel at home.”

Currently a second-year medical student, Christiana is involved in several different extracurricular activities and clubs that align with her values and goals. For example, she helped organize a conference called “Bridges to Access” to promote awareness about technological resources that can be used in rural communities. She is the secretary of the Global Health Club, which organizes mission trips abroad for students and raises campus awareness of global health issues.

Christiana’s commitment to diversity and inclusion inspired her to become one of the founders of her medical school’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Chapter. They are currently working to increase awareness of health disparities, and recently organized a “White Coats for Black Lives” event on campus.

Anatomy of an Applicant, Christiana O, Core Competencies
Christiana with two of her classmates volunteering at the Representing Oklahoma and Diversity (R.O.A.D.) Conference last year.

University of Oklahoma College of Medicine on Why They Chose Christiana

“From growing up in a small Nigerian town with limited healthcare access, to moving to the U.S. and becoming an Army medic to support herself, Christiana’s unique life experiences and passion for helping the underserved stood out,” said Dr. Sherri Baker, associate dean for admissions at OU College of Medicine. During her interview, the admissions team was impressed by her maturity, composure, and self-awareness. Dr. Baker noted, “Christiana spoke about how her past experiences would make her a better physician. She also gave mature answers to difficult questions, such as how to handle confrontation.”   

Christiana’s application demonstrated how her personal values of teamwork, service orientation, and inclusion aligned with the values and mission of OU College of Medicine.  

Anatomy of an Applicant, Christiana O, Core Competencies
Christiana with her friends following her White Coat ceremony.

New section

Highlighted Competencies

Note: This section helps to illustrate how multiple competencies can be demonstrated across many experiences, activities, and parts of your application.

Icon of two hands holding a globe Service Orientation Service Orientation

Shows a commitment to something larger than oneself; demonstrates dedication to service and a commitment to making meaningful contributions that meet the needs of communities.

Supported community through volunteer work at Manos Juntas Clinic; served in the military; worked as a part-time nursing assistant at a senior living facility.

Icon of a globe Cultural Awareness Cultural Awareness

Appreciates how historical, sociocultural, political, and economic factors affect others’ interactions, behaviors, and well-being; values diversity; and demonstrates a desire to learn about different cultures, beliefs, and values.

Volunteered at a clinic that provides free healthcare to medically underserved populations; expressed her desire to improve health care inequities.

Icon showing four hands meeting in the middle Teamwork and Collaboration Teamwork and Collaboration Collaborates with others to achieve shared goals and prioritizes shared goals; adjusts role between team member and leader based on one’s own and others’ expertise and experience; shares information with team members and encourages this behavior in others; and gives and accepts feedback to improve team performance.

Collaborated with peers while working as an Army medic.

Icon of a person climbing stairs Resilience and Adaptability Resilience and Adaptability Perseveres in challenging, stressful, or ambiguous environments or situations by adjusting behavior or approach in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles, and recognizes and seeks help and support when needed; recovers from and reflects on setbacks; and balances personal well-being with responsibilities.

Persevered through challenging life circumstances; learned critical tasks in high-pressure situations.

Icon of person standing in front of arrows Commitment to Learning and Growth Commitment to Learning and Growth

Practices continuous personal and professional growth for improvement, including setting and communicating goals for learning and development; reflects on successes, challenges, and mistakes; pursues opportunities to improve knowledge and understanding; and asks for and incorporates feedback to learn and grow.

Used available resources to improve MCAT score.

Icon of a person with arm around another person Empathy and Compassion Empathy and Compassion Recognizes, understands, and acknowledges others’ experiences, feelings, perspectives, and reactions to situations; is sensitive to others’ needs and feelings; and demonstrates a desire to help others and alleviate others’ distress.

Showed care and compassion during patient encounters.

Icon of lightbulb and gear Critical Thinking Critical Thinking

Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Research experience, coursework.

Icon of beakers Scientific Inquiry Scientific Inquiry

Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems, and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.

Coursework, research experience, shadowing physicians.

Icon of a notebook and pencil Written Communication Written Communication

Effectively conveys information to others by using written words and sentences.

Research publications, personal statement.

Icon of a brain Human Behavior Human Behavior

Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.

Health care experience as an Army Medic and a CNA.

New section

Strongest Competencies

The student self-identified the following competencies as the strongest:

  • Icon of a person with a laptop under checkboxes
  • Icon of two hands holding a globe
  • Icon of two hands shaking in front of a heart
Christiana's Tips
  • "Participate in different extracurricular activities that aren't just clinical. Different experiences make you a more relatable and more competitive applicant."
  • "Participate in hobbies you enjoy to help maintain your mental wellness while going through the rigorous application process."
  • "Remind yourself why you decided to become a physician whenever you feel inadequate. Do not compare yourself to other applicants. Your strengths and skills are unique."
Engage with your Peers
Anatomy of an Applicant Guide Cover
Self-Assessment Guide

Read through the Anatomy of An Applicant resources and self-assessment guide for medical school applicants.

Anatomy of an Applicant, Micayla J, Core Competencies
Participate in Anatomy of An Applicant

We're looking for inspiring medical students to share their journey to medical school with us, and tell us how they demonstrated the Premed Competencies in their medical school application. Submit your application to be featured on the AAMC Student Hub today!

Submit your application
2023 Official Guide
Pre-Med Worksheets for the 2023 Official Guide

Download 13 worksheets free of charge as provided in the 2023 Official Guide to Medical School Admissions: How to Prepare for and Apply to Medical School

Premed Competencies for Entering Medical Students

Successful medical school applicants are able to demonstrate skills, knowledge, and abilities in these 17 areas. 

Learn more