Student Spotlight: Aiming to ‘bridge the gap’ of health disparities in developing nations

N’Deye Dabo hopes to help improve medical care around the world

While growing up in Senegal, URI College of Pharmacy student N’Deye Dabo saw firsthand the health disparities people face in the African country. The experience solidified her desire to enter the medical field, ultimately choosing pharmacy, with a goal of eventually working in international medicine.

“In Senegal, they don’t have the funds to have the best hospitals and equipment. Medicine is in really short supply there,” said Dabo, who moved to the west Africa country at age 2 to live with family members and learn about her native culture. “If you’re really sick and you have few funds, you really need to leave Senegal for care. My grandma had a heart issue and had to go to Paris for treatment. A lot of serious health conditions just cannot be taken care of there.”

By the time Dabo moved back to the United States at age 10, her career goals were taking shape. After middle school in Providence and Pawtucket, and high school at William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School in Lincoln, she decided to focus on pharmaceutical sciences, and applied to the URI College of Pharmacy, where she is completing her P4 year ahead of graduation in May 2021.

“My goal has always been medicine. I didn’t know which branch I wanted to go into, but I knew my path has to be something that can help the people I was raised with,” Dabo said. “I really wanted to come back and get a great education, and that’s why I chose URI.”

Her decision to attend URI was helped by the university’s Talent Development program, a division of Student Affairs that helps support historically marginalized groups find their voices at URI. “TD provided me with a lot of support. I lacked a lot of the educational background, having not been raised here. So they were there to help me bridge the gap, and it really became a family to me. URI really gave me the support that I didn’t even know I needed. It’s something I’m really grateful for.”

Dabo paid back that support by making it a point to help others at URI. From her first year on campus, she has served as a Resident Advisor, a position she has held most of her career at the university. She was passionate about advocating for the students in her care, “making sure each and every student is able to have their voices heard and feel the support they need.” For her extraordinary efforts, Dabo received the Rainville Student Leadership Award in 2019.

“Applying for the job of RA was probably the best decision I made. Winning the Rainville Award was the cherry on top,” Dabo said. “The job has given me so many different opportunities. It has taught me so many skills I use to this day. If you mention you were an RA in college during a job interview, it helps because not only do you have conflict resolution abilities, you were responsible for 20-50 people. It just sets you apart.”

Dabo also worked with Pharmacy Assistant Dean Denise Gorenski, helping mentor incoming students. She promoted the profession during the College’s Walgreen’s Program, which allows minority students from around the state potentially interested in pharmaceutical sciences to get a taste of the work done in the labs of Avedisian Hall. She is a founding member of the pharmacy academic fraternity Alpha Zeta Omega’s Rhode Island branch, treasurer for M.U.S.I.C, and contributor to the Cape Verdean Students Association, the Student Alliance for the Welfare of Africa, Alima International Dance Association, and DIVE R.I. (Diversifying Individuals Via Education).

“Working with DIVE is something I’ve been really passionate about,” Dabo said. “Many of my friends were part of this cause that provided us a platform to speak our minds and really fight against injustices were facing, whether at the university or around the world. It gives students a voice, which makes us feel hopeful. I’m so proud of all the things we’ve accomplished.”

Beyond being a leader on campus, Dabo has proven to be a conscientious student preparing for graduation in the spring. She just completed a rotation with CVS Pharmacy and is about to begin one with the state Department of Corrections. The variety of rotations fits with her career goals after graduation.

“I’ve worked in hospitals, which is what I’ve focused on the last couple years. But I also have gotten the chance to work in community pharmacy, thanks to all the experience URI has provided me,” Dabo said. “I am looking to do community pharmacy full-time and hospital part-time. They both give me things I really love, but community provides me with the opportunity to really talk to the patient. I am at the forefront of what the patient needs; I’m basically their last stop to make sure they have everything they need. You have the opportunity to sit down with the patient and really make sure that they are getting the best medical treatment.”

Ultimately, Dabo plans to move into international medicine, and to that end has added French as a double-major. She also speaks Wolof, a local dialect in Senegal, where she hopes to one day bring her skills to help erase the health disparities residents there face.

“My ultimate goal is international medicine, so finding a way that I can bridge the gap and help bring supplies and medical attention to Senegal,” Dabo said. “Any way we can fund raise and help give them the support and education that they need will make a huge difference. I plan to bring what I’ve learned and help bridge the gap of knowledge they really need.”