RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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Catching up with Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi

photo of Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi

When I got the email from Bez Adeosun that I had been nominated to the Rare Rising Stars by Dr Garang, one of the previous award recipients, my heart almost jumped out of my mouth. I had been in the UK for just about two years, and 2020 had been particularly hectic, particularly with the pandemic in its full swing. So naturally, I was in disbelief about it. I fondly remember being interviewed by Bez, telling my story, which in my opinion, is one of the most challenging tasks to do. The conversation went for more than an hour as I spoke in the small seminar room at my department. I started to properly appreciate the impact of my experiences. They have moulded and shaped me and my aspirations. After then, days turned to weeks and weeks to months. I didn’t know what to expect until I got another email stating I had made the top ten. At that time, the position did not matter; making up the list was good enough for me.

A week after that, I was told I had made the top four and should ensure I was available to give a speech remotely on the said date of the event. This elevated my mood the whole week, especially with the laboratory being shut due to COVID 19 and things appearing gloomy. On the day of the award, they called number four. It wasn’t me. Then I thought, maybe number three, and they called number three, and it still wasn’t me. Because I was distracted for some minutes, I thought, ‘oh wow! I must have been part of five to ten. I must have missed out on my name. Perhaps they mispronounced my name, which is, unfortunately, becoming a familiar theme.’ Then I heard my name being called second, I lost it, I didn’t know what to say. I have never felt happier to be second in my life and to have lost the first position to such a phenomenal Black woman who would make a first in any list.

Since that moment, the world has been spinning round in circles, and life has happened to me pleasantly. Shortly after that, I was named one of the top 35 most inspiring youth under 35 in Africa by Africa 35.35 awards. I was a finalist for Social entrepreneur of the year. I was named as one of the top 159 inspiring youths in Africa by the Africa Youth Awards. I also got featured in oxford 100 BHM as one of the 100 innovators, creators, and thinkers who have contributed to Oxford’s prestige in celebrating Black History Month. After that, I got several academic grants, scholarships, and studentships. The cherry on the cake was being named PhD student of the year in the United Kingdom. These awards and laurels make me immensely grateful to God, family, supervisors, friends, collaborators, colleagues, mentors, mentees, and members of my department.

My time in Oxford and perhaps the UK is coming to an end shortly. Still, I am excited about the future, the promises and uncertainties that go with it. I would like foremost to return to Nigeria and explore the country for a while. All things being equal, I want to stay in a rural town in Nigeria that is underserved health and education-wise and offer my medical expertise. After then, I intend to commence my speciality training in medicine in a program I perceive to be a good fit for my ideas and ambitions. I am highly interested in contributing to the medical field, academically and clinically, especially in areas that affect women and unborn children.

Finally, I am grateful to the Rare Rising Stars team for recognising and celebrating Black excellence in the UK and across the world.

Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi

Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi graduated with a distinction from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and is currently working in the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford. His work focuses on issues pertaining to medical conditions that affect pregnant women and newborn babies like preeclampsia and preterm birth He is a 2020 Rare Rising Star.