Kirwin Winner Aims to Take on Dental School – and Nigerian Health Care Reform

She came to UVA to play volleyball, but Krystal Ejesieme always had big plans for what came after graduation.

Krystal Ejesieme plans to practice dentistry in the United States and hopes to reform health care in Nigeria.

The Dallas resident is the 2017 recipient of the Glenn D. Kirwin Scholarship , a $20,000 grant administered through the University of Virginia Alumni Association and named in honor of a member of the Class of 1982 who was killed in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

A third-year human biology major, Ejesieme is conducting a comparative analysis of European, African and American health care systems, beginning this summer in Paris and continuing through her fourth year at UVA, with the goal of helping to implement health care reform in Nigeria in the future.

“My family is from Nigeria, so that is why this interests me so much,” she said. “The main goal I have is to channel Nigerian government funds into public and private health care institutions. The country allocates 4.3 percent of its federal budget toward health care, which is only $67 per person every year. Other countries, such as South Africa, allocate seven times as much. Facilitating this expansion of funding would lead to a larger capacity of hospitals and clinics across Nigeria and would also reduce barriers to insurance coverage.”

Recognizing solutions and setting goals are characteristics Ejesieme shares with Glenn Kirwin, according to Eliot Bird, head of the scholarship selection committee.

“Krystal faced adversity throughout her childhood,” Bird said. “Her parents are from a small village in Nigeria and Krystal and her family have been back often to visit and offer aid. Her family’s village lacks plumbing, and has no hospital, and Krystal almost died on one visit after contracting malaria. It is no wonder her family is drawn to work in health care.”

Bird said Ejesieme has proven to be a hard worker, inside and outside the classroom. She arrived at UVA as a varsity volleyball player before withdrawing for health reasons.

“Her goals once she is graduated from professional school include returning to Nigeria to improve access to health care,” Bird said. “With Krystal’s electric personality, we have no doubt she will be successful.”

Kate Stephenson, Ejesieme’s athletic adviser and mentor, said she did a very good job at balancing her athletic performance with maintaining high academic standards.

“I have come to appreciate her integrity, humility in her achievements and leadership qualities,” Stephenson said. “It did not take me long to recognize those unique traits she possesses. Krystal is exceptionally focused on her post-undergraduate goals and has a specific plan in place for how she wants to achieve those aspirations. Her specific career aim in that field is to pursue dental school and become a dentist after graduating from the University of Virginia, which comes out of a desire to pursue a skill-based profession that will empower her to assist others.”

A Gilman International Scholar, Ejesieme is a support officer for the Honor Committee, treasurer for the Organization of African Students, a Fourth-Year Class Trustee and an Office of African-American Affairs peer adviser. She is a member of the Pre-Dental Society and a tutor at Zion Union Baptist Church. She received a Fund for Education Abroad Scholarship and an International Studies Office Scholarship.

In dental school, “I intend to specialize in orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry while continuing my research into Nigerian health care reform,” she said. “My end goal is to open my own practice in America and travel to Nigeria several times a year and work pro bono there.”

The Kirwin Scholarship was created in the days following Sept. 11, 2001 as a way to remember and honor him. The first award was presented in 2003, and there have been 22 winners and a total of $250,000 awarded. The winners are selected using a yardstick of Glenn Kirwin’s character and personality, his commitment to inclusion and his ability to take advantage of the opportunities offered at UVA.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications