AHEC - North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program
Touched by an AHEC: Stories from 100 Counties
Stephanie Amoako

Stephanie Amoako

Health Careers program participant, Americorps volunteer

Guilford County | Greensboro AHEC

Stephanie Amoako, Health Careers program participant, Americorps volunteer

A chance meeting made Stephanie Amoako aware of the existence of AHEC and its pipeline programs designed to encourage promising young people to pursue careers in health. While in high school, she and her mother ran into a friend who told them about Greensboro AHEC’s Summer Enrichment in Science and Mathematics (SEMS) Program.

A six-week residential program for high school juniors and seniors that engages students in rigorous academic courses, public health research and includes observations of health care professionals in clinical settings, SEMS turned out to be the ideal summer program for the budding health professional. As a Duke University student, Stephanie was interested in third world public health and global health issues.

“The whole program was very good,” said Stephanie, who attended SEMS the summer before her senior year of high school. “It was very rigorous and we were really exposed to a lot of different fields. We saw cadavers at UNC Medical School. I joked with my mom that I had passed one test.” As part of the program, each SEMS student chose a topic to research, write a paper and present a symposium – hers was smoking in African American males.

Stephanie’s parents were born in Ghana and moved to this country to pursue their own education before Stephanie was born. The family moved from Virginia to Greensboro in 1990. When she was 13, Stephanie started volunteering at a women’s hospital. She was inspired by her mother, a nurse practitioner at UNC-Greensboro who holds a doctorate as well as a master’s degree in nursing. “Seeing her work with her patients got me interested,” Stephanie said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and the detective aspect of medicine.”

An international comparative studies major, Stephanie took some of the pre-med coursework required for medical school. “I’m a big public health and global health person. That’s where the international aspect comes in – disease patterns and third world poverty issues. I’m also interested in racial disparities and human rights issues.”

Stephanie worked on a Red Cross fundraising initiative to eradicate measles in Africa during her freshman year at Duke. “We called it ‘Give a Dollar, Save a Life,’ because it costs less than a dollar to inoculate a child against measles.” She was involved with an effort to inform the public about the culture and issues of Africa, particularly the problem of obstetric fistulas and how they affect women who become pregnant at an early age. Her semester abroad was in South Africa, where she focused on multiculturalism and social change.

"SEMS was one of the hardest but one of the most rewarding things I have done. It went from 8 am until 9 pm every day. The science and math courses prepared me for my classes that fall – I took calculus that fall because I had had it in SEMS. It was a great program,” she concluded. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Duke in May of 2008, Stephanie began a year-long commitment with Americorps in Greensboro.