A future in global medicine
A book and a bout with malaria brought Damilola Olatayo’s future into clear focus.
She was in eighth grade and spending a year in her native Nigeria when she read “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” a book that solidified her decision to become a surgeon. Then she contracted malaria, an often deadly disease that she survived because her family could afford medical care.
That experience lit a fire in Olatayo, now a neurobiology major and Gates Millennium Scholar at The University of Texas at Austin, and made her determined to address the health care disparities she witnessed as a young girl.
“I saw that money was often the difference between people living and dying,” Olatayo says. “I saw that health is wealth. That experience made me want to be involved in global medicine.”
The Houston resident doesn’t waste time in pursuing her goals. She finished high school at age 15, won the Gates scholarship and chose The University of Texas at Austin to earn her undergraduate degree. Now she’s looking at the country’s top medical schools for the next leg of her journey.
Olatayo has certainly left her mark on the Forty Acres. As a Longhorn, she participated in several other campus groups and helped drum up support for a medical school at UT.
She also acted as a liaison between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the roughly 100 students on campus who received Gates scholarships, taking an active role in the programs that help scholars put into practice the foundation’s philosophy of service and leadership.
For Olatayo, who had her pick of colleges upon graduating from high school, The University of Texas at Austin has met her high standards.
“It seems like everything we do here at UT has a level of excellence that comes with it,” she says.
Soncia Reagins-Lilly, dean of students at The University of Texas at Austin, knows that students such as Olatayo are essential to the school’s success. “She’s thoughtful, smart, driven, caring, courageous, everything you want in someone who’s going to be one of the leaders of her generation. It’s so refreshing and reassuring to know we are going to be in such creative and thoughtful hands.”
Take a good look: This is the face of a future leader who got her start at The University of Texas at Austin.