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Wofford pharmacology student wants to help others heal

By Felicia Kitzmiller
felicia.kitzmiller@shj.com
Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Published: Saturday, January 26, 2013

Angelique Nyinawabera

Healing is a phenomenon Angelique Nyinawabera has seen on a grand scale in her Rwanda home, and now she is studying to help individuals heal through pharmacology.

When she was only 4 years old, the Wofford College senior's family escaped the 1994 Rwanda genocide. In three months, from April to July of that year, more than 800,000 people from the Tutsi ethnic group were killed, according to the United Human Rights Council. Nyinawabera's family fled from their hometown, Rusizi, across the border into a neighboring country.

She still remembers the post-war chaos her family encountered when they returned home. The parts she doesn't remember her mother and other family members tell stories about. The horrors are taught in detail in school, too, she said.

“You forgive, but it doesn't mean you forget the innocent Rwandans killed,” she said.

Nyinawabera, a chemistry major, came to Wofford College as a Rwanda Presidential Scholar — a competitive award that pairs bright Rwandan students with education opportunities. After the war she lived in an underserved area, and Nyinawabera said she had “life experiences that weren't necessarily happy.”

“I guess that's why we're (Rwanda Presidential Scholars) here, because we want to go back to help the country grow and develop,” she said.

Change of heart

For her first three years of school, Nyinawabera thought she wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor.

“I love science, so I wanted to combine my love for sciences with a love for serving the community,” she said.

After several shadowing experiences, though, Nyinawabera changed her mind.

At the end of her junior year, pre-pharmacy advisor Bryan Splawn said Nyinawabera came to him and said she was considering studying pharmacology after graduation, but her time was short to meet application requirements for graduate level pharmacy schools.

“I told her to continue to work hard and we'll work it out,” Splawn remembered.

For several months she studied hard for her Pharmacy College Admission Test and completed it after her December finals. She spent January doing internships and shadowing programs at Greenville Memorial Hospital, local compounding pharmacy SherTech, Bi-Lo pharmacy and at Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy.

“She has an incredible, hardworking personality and a sweet spirit. She cherishes every minute and is taking full advantage of the opportunity to come to Wofford,” Splawn said. “The investment Wofford has made into her, she has given Wofford a 100 percent return on investment.”

In the 14 years since the genocide, Nyinawabera said amazing changes have happened in Rwanda. The economy is growing and the government, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, is working, she said.

“It's like Rwanda is rising from the ash,” Nyinawabera said. “If someone had been to Rwanda then (during the genocide) and went back now they would be like, ‘No, I can't believe my eyes.' ”

She is applying to pharmacy schools in America — eight total, all along the East Coast — but Nyinawabera said she is eager to find an opportunity to serve her country. When she goes home, she said her friends and family comment on her maturity and she credits her confidences to experience in America.

“No matter how challenging something might look, just try it,” Nyinawabera said. “You can fail or you can succeed, but try.”

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