Play Ball! This UMKC Jackie Robinson Scholar is Hitting Home Runs in the Medical World

The six-year B.A./M.D. student is jumpstarting her career through the Royals and MLB
Smiling woman on baseball field in Royals gear

Emmanuella Alawode, Dallas native and fourth-year student in the B.A./M.D program is a Jackie Robinson Scholar. Through this program, Alawode not only gets to participate in career-readiness opportunities, but also receives support from the Kansas City Royals Foundation. The Royals are a UMKC partner. An extra special perk of the program? She got to throw out the first pitch at UMKC Night at The K last month. 

Why did you choose UMKC?  

I knew I wanted to become a doctor, so I talked to a lot of my mentors and people who also went through the accelerated B.A./M.D. program that saves two years off of the traditional undergraduate and medical-school path. That just reassured me that UMKC was an excellent choice. I really liked the six-year program knowing that I can get a jumpstart with my career. And it is not too far from home. 

Why did you choose your field of study?  

Growing up, I just really enjoyed science, anatomy dissections, experiments and research. My experience at UT Southwestern in a high school camp was pivotal for me and exposed me to clinical research. I shadowed a breast surgeon and became interested in women’s health. Something else that has shaped my interest in health disparities has been volunteering with my church and helping in their health clinic.  

Emmanuella next to the School of Medicine sign.

What are the challenges and benefits of the program?  

There are a lot of learning curves along the way. Because you are going straight into med school after high school and are also juggling it with doing your undergraduate degrees. A key challenge was learning how I like to study now, and finding the best way to retain the volume of information.  

The benefits are that we get early clinical exposure. You get to learn how to interview patients or just medical terminology in your first year. After your second year, you get white coated and get assigned a docent, and that is your docent for your remaining four years. You also get a senior partner, and they are there to guide you along the way. They can help answer questions and help you hone some of your clinical skills.  

How has your college program inspired you?  

It has gotten me interested in health-care policy advocacy. I’m also interested in how we can better shape medical education and make sure we are honing on helping students to master what they need to know for clinical practice, but also making sure that their mental and physical health does not deteriorate.  

Are you a first-generation college student? 

Yes. It means that I can hopefully inspire younger people who may not have had medical exposure or don't know what the journey and rigor of medical school. I didn’t know the demands of medical school before. But now, it means I can be a mentor for others and someone that others can look up to, and I love that.  

Who do you admire most at UMKC ?  

My docent, Dr. Gary Salzman, is my favorite person at UMKC. I like the way that he interacts with patients. Every time we come into the room, the patients are like “‘there’s my favorite doctor!”’ He is always looking out for the best interests of the patients.  

Do you have other scholarships in addition to the Jackie Robinson Scholarhip?   

Another one that I have received is the UNCF STEM scholarship. Both the Jackie Robinson scholarship and the UNCF STEM scholarship hope to encourage students who are African American or another minority to pursue higher education. I am incredibly grateful for both of those scholarships.  

Do you have any standout moments of the Jackie Robinson Scholarship experience?  

I would say the love and the foundation have been the standout parts of my experience. When I was applying, I knew they have mentorship and support, but I did not expect the level of support I have since received. One alumni (of the Jackie Robinson scholarship program) purchased MacBooks for most of us, which is nice. Another memorable experience is the first pitch (at the Royals game) that I threw!  

Alawode throws out the first pitch.

What other extracurricular activities are you involved in at UMKC?   

Last year, I was the social chair for the student National Medical Association. I am the communications and social media manager for the Association of Women Surgeons. I have been an ambassador with the admissions office and am a member of the Surgical Interest Group. I am also a part of the American Medical Women’s Association and Her Campus as a writer. 

What do you hope to take from your experiences at UMKC into your professional career?  

I’ve been stretched in many ways that I never thought I could be stretched. The key is learning that you must always think outside of the box. Especially, as a future surgeon, I may not be able to approach a particular procedure the same way I do for another person. Also being flexible. Learning how to manage time wisely. The spirit of perseverance.  


Emmanuella was also featured in local news coverage here.

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