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Freshman Aims for Medical Career in Africa

MCLA is pleased to offer this story in a series of student profiles about our incoming Class of 2020. We are proud to introduce just a few of the many accomplished and diverse students who belong to this distinctive group, as we discover more about them, their hopes, their dreams, and their goals for the future as they look forward to and begin their MCLA careers.

09/21/16

When he was a boy growing up in Sierra Leone, Africa, Issa Jalloh ’20 of Lynn, Mass., contracted malaria and came down with a high fever. But when his father took him to the hospital, he was refused treatment because of their inability to pay. Were it not for the kindness of a stranger who agreed to cover his bill, Jalloh may not have survived.

“If you don’t have money, they will not treat you. Money comes first, not life,” Jalloh said. “That is not right.”

Life in Sierra Leone is not easy, he explained, as epidemics are common and water may be contaminated. As a biology major at MCLA, Jalloh aims to become a doctor, and make a difference there.

“I like helping people. My dad always wanted to be a doctor, and my aunt is a doctor in Sierra Leone. She inspires me with everything she does,” he said.

Interested in the nervous system, Jalloh is considering becoming a neurologist. After he has gained some experience working in the United States for a few years, he plans to return to Sierra Leone.

Jalloh moved to the U.S. at age 13 with two of his brothers when they left Africa to live with his mother, a registered nurse, in Massachusetts. The change was difficult for him.

“It was really hard to adapt to the new lifestyle, and especially the weather. Africa is very hot so the cold was very hard,” Jalloh explained. “I was amazed by all of the technology that is here, and I had to learn all of it, and to speak English.”

Jalloh learned to play soccer in Africa, where it is a popular sport. However, “I did not take it seriously.” That quickly changed once he played soccer in high school, where he also joined the track team.  

With the knowledge that MCLA participates in Division III soccer, Jalloh tried out and made the Trailblazers’ team. He started attending soccer practices prior to the start of the fall semester.

Even earlier, as one of 20 participants in MCLA’s summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Academy, he got a preview of what the next four years might hold. At the Academy, Jalloh made connections with faculty and staff, formed friendships with other like-minded students, and worked on academic skills.

“It was really fun,” he said. “MCLA is a great place with nice people.”

He plans to join the biology club, and, once the soccer season ends, he looks forward to joining additional clubs. “I love meeting new people.”

When he’s not playing soccer, Jalloh also likes to lift weights and to read, especially novels and books on anime, biology and anatomy. A resident of Hoosac Hall, he enjoys school.

“I’m always trying to learn new things,” Jalloh said. “With knowledge comes power.”