I Didn’t Start To Stop Here – Sharon Mbacham Ngwafor

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I got to know Sharon through a mutual friend called Dorothy on LinkedIn. I was attracted to her profile because of the her great achievements in Clinical Biology. I believe her experience will be inspiring to someone out there. Here is our interview about her STEM journey.

Hi Sharon, Thank you for joining us today
Hi Winnie, it is my pleasure to be here.

This is Words That Count, a STEM advocacy blog that features women in different fields of STEM as a way of encouraging young girls who are passionate about the same but are not sure who to look up to. We want them to know that all their dreams are valid and definitely achievable. We welcome you to this episode.
Thank you for inviting me. I am glad to add my voice to those of the wonderful women here.

Kindly tell us your full name
My name is Sharon Mbacham Ngwafor.

What do you do currently?
I am a Medical Doctor by profession. Actually I enrolled in a residency program in Clinical Biology at the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences-University of Yaoundé I. I am currently more of a scholar – a resident in Clinical Biology. I am also glad to be doing a clinical research program in Harvard Medical School Postgraduate Education online.

Please walk us through your journey of becoming a Medical Doctor
My desire to become a scientist inclined in from my dad; he is more of a researcher. But what exactly attracted me to Medicine were the white coats, haha. This was followed by my love for children. So growing up, I had a desire to become a paediatrician. When I got to fully understand what my dad was into – research – I would go with him to the laboratory at a very young age; I think I was 9 years old then. It was very intriguing! Seeing him pick up a Petri dish that seemed bare to me but him insisting there was a certain colony was very interesting to me. That’s where my true desire started from.

Then came Medical School (Université des Montagnes,Bangangté-Cameroon), during which I served in different departments of medicine, like Paediatrics, Internal Medicine, Surgery and Gynaecology. After all this, research finally caught up with me. I realized that if I did Laboratory Medicine, I would be given a chance to contribute to all aspects and specialities of Medicine. That is how I ended up falling in love with everything related to Clinical Research and here I am today.

What has been your biggest challenge?
Challenging is a little bit more than what I would call it. But to answer the question, my biggest challenge was discovering myself; where my love truly was! I wanted to do something that I would truly love and enjoy in the long run because your career life is something that sticks with you for a long time. Whenever I get into a new space, environment or new program, I try to look at the end of the tunnel. I don’t view it as something hard but rather as another step to where I am heading. It turns out to be a motivation to me because I know there’s always going to be light at the end of the tunnel. I know that life is never going to be a bed of roses. So, anything new on my side is covered by my thought of “I didn’t start to stop here”.

Also, being the first in my family has been a little bit of a challenge because I know that I am being looked up to. Every step I take has to be in the right direction, not just for me but the people after me too. But it has also been a motivation on my side. I am happy to know that my actions have a lasting and impactful mark on someone else. And now my kids too – them knowing that “Mama does such and such cool work” pushes me to never give up.

I was actually going to ask about your sources of inspiration but you have tackled that. Unless there’s something to add
Not really, those are truly my sources of inspiration. You know science isn’t covered much in our communities so I try to do as much as I can to make resources available for other people. Knowing that I am making positive impact into someone’s life is my biggest inspiration.

My mom is my other source of inspiration, plus women in Science like Prof Rose Leke.

Please tell us about your prestigious moments; recognitions, awards, achievements etc.
As early as my secondary school days, I was vice president then president of the health club. During that time, we got to carry out a project in one of the localities in Cameroon – Limbe. We were able to provide portable drinking water for this local community. This was one of my biggest projects.

I got my first travel award in 2013, for a paper presentation at a malaria conference in Durban, South Africa.

I was awarded one of the best students in my 6th year of medical school in regards to GPA.

I had another award in 2019 after submitting my masters thesis in 2018. It was given a Development Country Award where I presented that paper during the American Society for Human Genetics in Houston-Texas.

Who is Sharon outside work?
I love sleeping. I get very little of that these days because of my 6 months old baby. I already have 2 other children, so sleep is such a valuable thing for me.

Other than that, I love spending time with friends and family, and then movies. I actually don’t really watch the movies, I just play then and sleep while watching, haha. They are like a lullaby for me; if I find difficulty in sleeping, I just play a movie and get to sleep, which actually gets my husband mad ..hahaha.

I also love cooking. I always research new ways to make my children love food. You know routine too is kind of tricky, especially with young ones.

What is your favourite quote?
It comes from Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”. I know we live in a not-so-kind world but in just doing what this scripture says we help create a better world for everyone.

What advice would you give to a young girl trying to fit into STEM?
First of all, I would encourage her to dream; it’s always good to dream and when you dream and have the means, do it! Once you get into it, make sure you don’t give up on the way because giving up might be an option but it is a regrettable one in the long run.

Try as much as you can to have a positive mindset and always know that when you get a challenge, looking at the end of the tunnel will help you overlook all the obstacles. The light at that end is what drives you. No matter how dark it is, you keep moving because there is hope at the end. If you fail today, get yourself up and know that there is a tomorrow for you to do better.

Thank you very much Sharon for doing this with me. I know it was a weird hour for an interview but you came through. Thanks once again, and I wish you the very best in life.

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