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MD/PhD student Laël Ngangmeni dedicated to women’s health equity and justice

MD/PhD student Laël Ngangmeni, MBS, started school when she was 3 years old in her home country of Cameroon. A natural-born learner and curious thinker, Ngangmeni knew science was her calling.

“My father grew very sick and later suffered from a stroke, so I observed the treatment he received early on,” she said. “I felt connected to medicine, it just clicked. I can remember being in and out of the hospital as a child, due to mosquito-borne illnesses being common where I grew up. I went in feeling poorly and came out feeling great, so I thought, ‘I want to do what they’re doing.’”

Ngangmeni and her family immigrated to the United States in 2007. In Maryland, Ngangmeni attended Robert Goddard French Immersion School, followed by the science and tech program at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

She left after 10th grade to begin her premed and psychology education at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass., at 16. She graduated at 19 with a bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a master’s in biomedical sciences at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton, Penn. Throughout her schooling, Ngangmeni was able to travel all over the world to places such as Peru, Guatemala, Spain and Switzerland.

“I love to learn. I’ve always loved information and exploring the unknowns of our societies. I think traveling allowed me to see the world through a different lens,” she said. “In my sophomore year of undergrad, I started learning more about inequities in health. I started asking questions about how humans think, how we interact with one another and that’s where a lot of my passion for women’s health began.”

Ngangmeni serves as the chair of the Medical Scientist Training Program Student Council’s Action for Equity and Inclusion Committee, co-president for the UMass Christian Fellowship and secretary for the UMMS Student National Medical Association. She has also participated in clubs such as DocApella, a student-led acapella group, and Cuddle Buddies, which furthered her dedication to mothers and their newborns.

“I basically got to hold babies in the NICU for several hours. Learning about this in medical school and then applying it in the hospital in real time is just amazing. It totally solidified my love for infants,” she said.

“Whenever I read about anything related to pregnancy, it makes me the most excited. I just think it’s the greatest miracle. I want to learn about the different methods, see how teamwork can come into this and how we can empower women in their birthing process to do what is best for them,” Ngangmeni said.

With goals of becoming a physician-scientist who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, Ngangmeni is in her second year of the MD/PhD program. The program allows her to simultaneously investigate the intersections between medicine and science as a means to help people.

“Being a medical scientist would fit my interests and give me the opportunity to be a part of something truly unique. When I saw that UMass Medical School offered a clinical and population health research option for students, I was sold. I feel like I am able to truly create a career for myself and establish this amazing unification of the things I love: research and clinical work,” Ngangmeni said.

The Student Spotlight series features students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Medical School and how to apply, please visit the Prospective Students page.