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Biochemistry senior hopes to return to Africa as a doctor

Mar 12, 2020
A man in a lab coat and glasses pours liquid into a container
A man in a lab coat and glasses pours liquid into a container

KOKOMO, Ind. – In Carlos Enci’s village in Cameroon, doctors were hard to come by.

Having emigrated to the United States from Africa four years ago, he hopes to fill that gap by becoming a physician, and then open a hospital or clinic in his home country. He’s taking the first steps by preparing to apply to medical school, and graduating from Indiana University Kokomo in May, with a degree in biochemistry.

“I plan to be a travel doctor with something like Doctors without Borders, going all over Africa,” said Enci, who lives in Kokomo with his parents and young siblings. “I know there is already a shortage of doctors in the United States, so it can’t supply its own doctors, and sending some to Africa is going to be hard. We from Africa have to get trained and supply our own, rather than relying on other countries.” 

As part of his studies, he’s performed research with Mohammad Hossain, assistant professor of organic chemistry, developing compounds for anticancer medications. Because of that research, Enci is interested in potentially pursuing a Ph.D. while also earning his medical doctor degree.

“In many African countries, cancer is an undiagnosed condition, because of lack of specialists and knowledge,” he said. “Since we don’t know how to diagnose it, we can’t treat it. I have an interest in that area, of cancer, and HIV research. Those are my two main focuses. I’d like to find a way to get affordable medications to the people.”

His family places a high value on education, noting that his mother is a pharmacist and his father earned a Master of Public Management at IU Kokomo in 2018. They are proud of his determination.

“We come from a humble background,” he said. “My father was smart. He went to school, and he focused on his studies. He sent me to the best schools possible. Education is a power in my family. If you aren’t educated, nobody will listen to you. Education is the foundation for our family coming to this country.”

He feels a responsibility to set a path for his brother, who is six, and his sisters, who are 1 and 2 years old, to follow.

“Whatever I do, the young ones are watching,” he said. “That makes me careful about what I do. I try to be the best example I can be for them.”

School was not always easy, especially when he first moved from The Republic of Cameroon in central Africa. The country’s official languages are French and English, and he was far more proficient in French.

He enrolled first in community college to take his general education classes while adjusting to a new country.

“My first class was a history class. I sat there and I couldn’t understand a single word,” he said. “The accent spoken was so different than what I was used to. By the end of the first year, I had it figured out.”

He transferred to IU Kokomo because of the excellent reputation of the School of Sciences

“My faculty have been so great,” he said. “The campus is smaller, so you have a lot of time with your professors. They give you their time when you have questions, and they’ve never too busy for you.”

Though he wants to give back in Africa, he says Kokomo — where his parents, brother and sisters are — is now home, and he wants to be a citizen. He won’t forget where he came from, though, and plans to return regularly to provide medical services.

“I want to live in Indiana, but go out and share my knowledge with the outside world,” he said. “I’ve been in this country four years, and in May, I will be a college graduate. I came here with nothing, and I’m leaving with something important. If I can do it, others can as well.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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