Some people pursue a career in medicine because they’re interested in helping others. Some choose the medical field with an eye to profit. Some are simply fascinated with the intricate workings of the human body.
And then there are a handful who have experienced a life-threatening illness and recovered – and they want to give back.
Honors student Marie Dufitumukiza is one of them.
Although she moved to Abilene when she was 15, Marie is originally from Rwanda. She and her parents fled the country during the turmoil of the early 1990s and emigrated to the Congo. She was 4 years old at the time.
While her parents moved through the Congo, Kenya, Togo and Benin, Marie watched her father work with fellow refugees. As a member of the health profession, he had experience treating many of the illnesses that plagued the refugees and was able to relieve their pain and help them through difficult situations.
“Growing up around that attracted me to the health profession,” Marie said.
She didn’t have firsthand experience with the effects of medical treatment until she fell sick with malaria, slipping into a five-hour coma that had her father rush her to the hospital. With a combination of hospital care and her father’s treatment, Marie managed to make a full recovery.
“That experience really stirred my heart and made me want to help others,” she said. “That was one of God’s miracles.”
As she and her family moved around Africa, they encountered many hardships along the way. Economic difficulties and political struggles within the region proved to be their biggest challenges. However, Marie points out that God always took care of them.
“For the most part, we were blessed,” she said. “In all those countries, we didn’t have to depend on living in refugee camps. God always provided for us, wherever we were.”
Her family lived in the Congo, Kenya, Togo and Benin before emigrating to the United States in September of 2005. Marie entered the 10th grade at Abilene High School, and two years later came to ACU, despite the fact that she originally planned to leave Abilene when she went to college.
“It was just God-led – God was calling me to ACU,” she said.
She was attracted by ACU’s pre-med program and impressed with the campus. But for Marie, the thing that really stands out about ACU is the people.
“I wanted the Christian experience of the university,” she said. “I really came to love the caring nature of the professors and students.”
She has also enjoyed the chance to share her experience with others and learn of their diverse journeys to this particular university. Marie sees ACU as a place that encourages openness toward other cultures and fosters understanding among people from different backgrounds.
“It’s good to have the exchanges that I’ve had. The different cultures that I’ve encountered give me a different perspective,” she said. “It’s been exciting to meet new people and encounter all this diversity. I feel like I’ve learned so much about so many different people; it’s really broadened my knowledge of other cultures.”
Marie’s plans for the future aren’t set in stone. But she is sure of one thing: Her career will include giving back to those she left behind.
“I want to go back to Africa and work in the countries that really need help,” she said.