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Oluebube Akujieze (left) is following in her mother’s footsteps. She’ll graduate with her degree in medical laboratory science this May. Her mother obtained her MLS degree from UD’s College of Health Sciences in 2019.
Oluebube Akujieze (left) is following in her mother’s footsteps. She’ll graduate with her degree in medical laboratory science this May. Her mother obtained her MLS degree from UD’s College of Health Sciences in 2019.

Continuing the legacy

Photo by Ashley Barnas Larrimore

Mother's path inspires daughter to pursue medical laboratory science degree at UD

Oluebube Akujieze still remembers the radiant smile on her mother’s face as she crossed the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences convocation stage in 2019 and received her bachelor of science in medical laboratory science (MLS). She was absolutely beaming. 

“I was so proud of her, and it was such a full circle moment,” Akujieze said. “I watched her be in and out of school as I grew up — it’s hard when you have a family. I remember her going to clinicals, coming home and cooking dinner, then sitting down to write a report. Her never-ending determination was so inspiring.”

Now, Akujieze is following in her mother’s footsteps. In a few short weeks, she’ll walk across the same stage and obtain the same MLS degree. It’s the best Mother’s Day gift a mom could ever receive. 

“I’m so happy Oluebube is graduating from my alma mater,” said her mother, Uche Agbasi. “UD’s MLS program is extremely challenging. Finishing this rigorous program is a huge feat, and I'm very proud of knowing the challenges she’s faced along the way and seeing her come out strong.” 

This year, UD’s Department of Medical and Molecular Sciences is celebrating 75 years of excellence in preparing students like Agbasi and Akujieze to excel in clinical, public health, commercial and research laboratories. Over three-quarters of a century, hundreds of students have earned bachelor’s degrees in MMSC majors, including applied molecular biology and biotechnology, medical laboratory science, medical diagnostics and medical diagnostic pre-physician assistant, while many others have earned graduate degrees. Nearly 100% of students enter the workforce or further their education, highlighting the department’s impressive track record.  

Esther Biswas-Fiss, professor and chair of the department, said they’re proud to have a mother and daughter graduate from the MLS program within five years of one another. She said Agbasi and Akujieze are great examples of the program’s success. 

“It is gratifying to see succeeding generations pursue their education in our department. It speaks volumes about the impact of our programs and the professions they go on to serve,” Biswas-Fiss said. “I can’t imagine a better Mother’s Day gift for Uche than for her daughter Oluebube to follow in her footsteps.”

From Nigeria to UD

Agbasi had obtained a degree in microbiology in Nigeria and worked as an associate in a hospital lab there for years. Akujieze remembers watching her mom work in the lab after school.

“It was so interesting to see her work,” Akujieze said. “It inspired my passion for medical laboratory science.” 

When Oluebube was 8 years old, she and her mother immigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. Agbasi enrolled in UD’s MLS program because of its stellar reputation in the region and its accreditation by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. 

“I came to UD, started the program, and then I got pregnant,” Agbasi recalled. “So, I took two years off and came back.”

Since graduating from UD, Agbasi has worked at a small community hospital and now at Inspira Medical Center in New Jersey. She knew UD had prepared her well. 

“I had no fear getting into the workforce,” Agbasi said. “When I applied for my first job, the lab director said, ‘Oh, you’re from UD. Whenever we see students from UD, we know what we’re getting.’ She said, ‘UD students always deliver and rise above expectations.’” 

Another thing Uche and Oluebube have in common is they both entered pivotal points in their lives when COVID hit. In 2020, Uche had recently entered the workforce, and Olubube was beginning her MLS studies at UD. Oluebube was forced to take classes from home on Zoom while her mother, a frontline healthcare worker, was desperately needed at the hospital. 

“It was a really challenging time,” Agbasi said. “But we got through it.” 

Now, four years later, Akujieze is wrapping up her final clinical rotation in the lab at Bayhealth Kent General. 

“Now, in my rotation, I am using my foundational knowledge and can see just how well the UD MLS program prepared me for what I’ve encountered,” Akujieze said. 

After Commencement, Akujieze plans to work part-time in a lab to gain clinical experience as she studies for the MCAT and prepares her application to medical school, where she knows her MLS degree will prove invaluable.

“As a physician, you see lab results and interpret them,” Akujieze said. “But my background in medical laboratory science helps me understand testing and processes that will give me a more holistic understanding of patient care from start to finish.”

While nothing is stronger than the mother-daughter bond, sharing their Blue Hen experience comes close. Their diplomas will be framed side-by-side in their Newark home.

“It’s a dream come true. Each time I remember that we’re Blue Hens, it gives me joy,” Agbasi said. “Because Blue Hens always stand out. We raise the blue and yellow flag wherever we are.” 

“The campus and everyone on it are willing to help you,” Akujieze said. “I spent most of my life here between my mom and I going to school here, and it will always feel like home.”

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