Growing up in Kigali, Rwanda, Ange Uwimana witnessed many struggles in her homeland. The country was still recovering from its terrible genocide in the mid-90s, and faced ongoing financial and healthcare challenges. Lacking proper medical facilities and credible doctors, there was a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS among pregnant women in the early 2000s, during Ange’s childhood.
But still, Rwanda was Ange’s home, and she saw her country’s battles not as a source of discouragement and hopelessness, but instead as an opportunity. An opportunity to make better, to help—even in the harshest of circumstances. By Grade 3, she had begun to develop a keen interest in the sciences, and recognized the power they gave her to heal her country.
“I knew I was really interested in how the body works,” Ange reflected. When she was just barely old enough to comprehend Rwanda’s battle with AIDS and HIV, her thirst to make a difference in the healthcare field started to surface. “I was young and still growing up, but I was able to learn, oh, this disease is really horrible, and thought, what can I do to help.”
Now a biomedical science major on a pre-med track at Marist College, Ange is on her way to pursuing this goal. She has so far cloned a malaria antigen for the National Institute of Health, worked on a project with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute at Joslin Diabetes Center to find a cure for diabetes, and returned to her home in Rwanda for a summer to co-author a journal on AIDS research with Partners In Health.
And she still has a semester to go of undergraduate studies. “I have enjoyed every moment of Marist,” Ange said. “Even just graduating from a school away from home is cool.”
But in the midst of traveling across the U.S. for her internships and working to change lives on the Marist campus, Ange’s goal is the same as it was in Grade 3: To help. She wants to help formulate a solution to the lack of medical infrastructure in struggling nations such as hers. She wants to help contribute to the healing of her nation’s fight against HIV and AIDS, in which Rwanda has recently made much progress. With her past a very integral part of the aspiring physician she has become, Ange draws inspiration from the developing country that raised her.
Even through the somewhat chaotic times she grew up in, Ange always saw education as her inspiring light. She saw the impact that medical advances could have on nations like Rwanda, and was empowered by the passion and vivacity she saw in her teachers and family—one that transcended the challenges her country faced.
“I didn’t have much in life, but I had good encouragement and people who made me believe I could do great things in life,” Ange said. “There is so much that money can’t buy.”
After graduating from high school, Ange was set on her decision to pursue higher education. In order to study outside of Rwanda, she applied for the Rwandan MasterCard Foundation scholarship—a program that accepted roughly 30 out of the 200 students who applied to study in different countries. In addition to taking the SATs, placement tests, and filling out the Common Application, Ange completed a language test of English as a foreign language and took a gap year after high school simply to grasp the language and prepare for her studies abroad.
But by 2013, she parted ways with her family to pursue her studies and her dream of someday returning to Rwanda to improve medical care, doctors, and infrastructures. Using her love of the sciences as a driving force, Ange engaged in a number of research projects and healthcare-related opportunities on the Marist campus, including participating in Marist’s Relay for Life branch of the American Cancer Society. During the spring semester of 2016, she received the Marist Science Research Award to work with faculty member Dr. Raymond Kepner on the investigation of the microbiology of Hudson River Sediments.
Though aware of the ongoing health problems existing outside of the Marist realm, Ange believes in positivity. She sees medical advances as a saving grace, and believes that her love for healthcare, “can transform many lives.”
“There are so many things that go wrong in the world but there are so many things that can go right,” Ange said. “I bring the perspective of not judging the world from one side.” Currently, Ange is preparing to take the Medical College Admission Test, and is applying to medical schools for the fall. With a long journey ahead of her, Ange welcomes the opportunity for her bio-medical education to eventually lead her back home.