Jemima Chukwu – Student Profile
Published on 1 November 2023
An inspired journey with a hope to train reproductive medicine professionals and support infertile couples back in Nigeria – a profile of postgraduate student Jemima Chukwu.
Jemima Chukwu first heard Professor Chris Barratt speak when she attended an online conference organised by Vitrolife. Having been inspired by Professor Barratt, she then discovered that he worked at the University of Dundee and taught on a postgraduate course in Reproductive Medicine. This was the type of course that Jemima had been looking for, and when she discovered that you get to communicate with patients from the Assisted Conception Unit (ACU) and that there was a module on setting up an IVF clinic, she knew that this would be the best course for her.
Jemima had been researching and applying to similar programmes at other UK universities, but this course was the first she had found with such specific modules that could help with her future plans. She decided then that the MSc in Human Clinical Embryology and Assisted Conception (HCEAC) course was the perfect steppingstone on her journey towards one day opening her own IVF clinic and educational centre in Nigeria.
Before coming to Dundee, Jemima was teaching undergraduate students at Edo State University Uzairue in Nigeria, but she found it hard to get the type of training that she wanted. She had developed a personal interest in reproductive medicine due to having family members that struggled to conceive for many years. With IVF services being difficult to access for the average Nigerian, this inspired Jemima’s journey, as she hopes to one day be able to train other medical professionals and make the services more widely available, helping and supporting infertile and sub-fertile couples along the way.
Another reason that she chose this course is because she has a passion for research, and she felt this would improve her research and academic writing skills. She had already published academic papers before coming on to the course, but still feels that her skills are being challenged and that she is learning how to critically analyse through her writing.
Jemima credits the course with bringing her new networking opportunities, something that she really wanted. “For the future, if I should want to open a fertility clinic, I have people to support me, give me ideas and all these things”. She had also always wanted to attend the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) conference, something that was made much easier by being based in Scotland.
Now settled into her life in Dundee, Jemima is continuing her studies while working part time with the NHS. Having read about Scotland, she had heard that Dundee was a small city, sunny and there were lovely people there. “That’s what I found, my flatmates they are Scottish and they are very lovely people. When I came it was really easy to navigate around the city – it's walkable and the transport assistance taking you to Ninewells Hospital is just so marvellous, they’re nice people. It’s easy to get part time jobs, you don’t really need plenty of experience.”
“The most important thing for me is getting the knowledge. We are taught by both the staff from the ACU unit, genetics, and we are taught the areas that serve anatomy. Then the ACU is also nice because you get to see real life situations and it really prepares you for a professional life.”
Her advice to future international HCEAC students is to plan out carefully what they want from their MSc degree and whether their goals will require additional training - which usually depends on if they want to practice IVF here in the UK or their home country- while some students might want to pursue further research in the subject, get their PhD and contribute to the wider scientific community.
She has not made any solid plans for after graduation but hopes to get a UK-based PhD in the future. “It is my intention to set up an IVF clinic, but to do that back in Nigeria you need to be a medical doctor. So my plan is to have a quality fertility centre, that it is serving two purposes. First, giving reproductive council to patients, with doctors coming in to transfer the embryos but we have embryologists on the ground, that is the clinical part. Secondly, we also have the part where we train people that want to do the course through the university or a sponsor”.