< News | Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Youngest Doctor of Pharmacy grad will celebrate convocation after impactful educational experience

Theodora Udounwa News Overlay
(Photos by Steven Southon)

When Theodora Udounwa accepts her Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree at this year’s convocation, she will do so as the youngest graduate ever from the PharmD program at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.

At 21 years old, Udounwa has already gained a wealth of experience – in both pharmacy practice and student leadership – to prepare her for the next stage of her new career.

Growing up in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, Udounwa attended boarding school for middle school and high school, like many students in Nigeria. Thanks to a combination of starting kindergarten young and skipping a grade due to outstanding academic performance, she graduated from high school early – at just 15 years old.

While at boarding school, Udounwa found out about the University of Toronto and became interested in attending, especially as her older sister was already attending university in nearby Hamilton. Her parents, always supportive, helped her apply to U of T, and she was accepted.

“Pharmacy was always the plan…”

So, in 2018 at age 15, Udounwa left her family and moved halfway around the world to start a Bachelor of Science at U of T, specializing in pharmacology and biomedical toxicology with a minor in physiology.

Udounwa moved into the residence at St. Michael’s College, spending holidays with her sister in Hamilton or her aunt in Ajax. Despite being younger than her peers, Udounwa says that her maturity and being used to living at boarding school helped her fit in with the other students in residence.  Rather, the more difficult transition was coming to Canada from Nigeria and being one of the few Black students in her residence. Eventually, she got involved with groups such as the Nigerian Students’ Association, where she could meet people from her home country and culture.

After two years in the undergraduate program, Udounwa started her PharmD program at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.

“Pharmacy was always the plan. I enjoyed pharmacology greatly, but I was also interested in patient care, and I saw pharmacy as a bridge between applying those theoretical principles to patient care,” she says. “There are also a lot of career options in addition to patient care, like academic and research, that I thought would be a good fit for me.”

“This is a pivotal moment in our careers; be patient and give yourself grace as you go through the process and navigate through that uncertainty to the next great opportunity,” Udounwa says.

Udounwa held many student leadership roles during degree

Starting the PharmD program in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Udounwa, along with other members of her class, was offered a unique opportunity to participate in the pandemic response. She was trained earlier to deliver immunizations to help participate in vaccination clinics and personally delivered more than 1,600 COVID-19 vaccines, as well as flu vaccinations at the Discovery Pharmacy pop-up flu clinics.

She also completed rotations at Shoppers Drug Mart, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto General Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health’s family health team, the outpatient pharmacy at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Canadian Armed Forces.

During her time in the PharmD program, Udounwa was involved in a number of activities, including holding several roles with the Black Pharmacy Students’ Association and Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI) U of T chapter. Her involvement in extracurricular and leadership activities earned her a U of T Student Leadership Award earlier this year.

Udounwa says that one of the highlights from her time at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy was attending CAPSI’s 2023 Professional Development Week in Saskatoon as a U of T representative. She supported 16 U of T delegates at the conference and enjoyed the many educational and social opportunities at the conference.

“It was great to connect with students from other pharmacy schools, and I appreciated the opportunity to expand my professional skills and clinical knowledge,” she says. “We also had the chance to visit an Indigenous heritage site, Wanuskewin, and learn about Indigenous history and culture, which was very enriching.”

In September, Udounwa will start an industry residency at Novo Nordisk in the medical affairs and strategic operations department.

While she is keeping an open mind about the type of practice she may build in the future, Udounwa plans to continue working directly with patients in some capacity. Having navigated the challenges of moving around the world and experiencing a new culture at a young age, she advises her classmates to give themselves grace while they transition into this new phase of their careers.

“This is a pivotal moment in our careers; be patient and give yourself grace as you go through the process and navigate through that uncertainty to the next great opportunity.”

Recent News

News | Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Marie Goretti Uwayezu, a PhD candidate at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, is a recipient of the 2023 International...
News | Thursday, June 6, 2024
Rosemary Sadlier became president of the Ontario Black History Society, a role that changed how we think about history here,...
News | Thursday, May 30, 2024
A new space dedicated to providing Black students an opportunity to connect, collaborate and form community has launched at the...