A Calling in Conakry

November 29, 2016

CBS undergraduate Karimatou Bah traces her interest in medicine back to her childhood in Guinea.

Karimatou Bah

Karimatou Bah sees pursuing medicine as more than studying the human body or enjoying the prestige of becoming a doctor. For her, it’s personal.  

Bah grew up in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, a country on the west coast of Africa. When she or her brother got sick and made their way to a hospital or clinic, Bah noticed the lack of doctors available to treat patients. Still a child at the time, Bah recognized the need and saw an opportunity to make a difference.

“There are not that many doctors at all,” says Bah. “It’s like you see one doctor caring for five or 10 patients at once. For the first time, I saw something that I wanted to change. We needed more doctors. That’s when I knew I wanted to go into the health sciences.”

Bah held on to this career aspiration even after she moved to the United States in 2009 while still in high school. Despite the transition, she still wanted to practice as a doctor in underdeveloped areas.

In this process, she worked through the College Possible university preparation program, eventually landing in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. After two years of classes on campus, she realized she wanted to focus more on the sciences before applying to medical school. She transferred to CBS after her sophomore year and is now a senior majoring in biochemistry. It hasn’t always been easy.

“Coming into CBS, it’s kind of hard because I realized that most of my peers’ parents are doctors or biochemists or work in genetics,” says Bah. “As a first-generation college student, I had to learn everything on my own. I had to go out and find opportunities.”

For Bah, this meant getting involved in research and healthcare opportunities off campus. In the summer of 2015,  she participated in the McNair Research Scholar Program, studying neuroinflammation under Dr. Tammy Butterick. She also volunteers in the Digestive Care Unit and Same Day Surgery Unit at Regions Hospital, a position that’s reaffirmed her desire to become a doctor.

“I realized that I enjoy talking to patients who are going through something difficult and helping them get through that challenging time,” says Bah.  —Lance Janssen

“As a first-generation college student, I had to learn everything on my own. I had to go out and find opportunities.”