Adams State College 2008 Exceptional New Alumnus is Daramola

(10-01-2008)

Dr. Opeyemi "Ope" Daramola, Adams State class of 2004, has the energy and determination to exceed expectations. Having begun a residency in head and neck surgery, Daramola was named the Adams State College Exceptional New Alumnus for 2008. He will receive the award at the Alumnu Banquet and Annual Meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 in the Student Union Building room 131. For tickets and reservations contact the Alumni Relations Office at 719-587-8110.

Relene Harmon, who graduated in 2004 with a double majored in psychology and sociology, nominated Daramola because "he's just a phenomenal person and scholar." She said Daramola is not the kind of person to settle for anything less than exactly what he wants.

"As far as awards or honors go, I think Ope's a very humble person who will never tell people about his accomplishments himself," Harmon said.

He is now in the first of a five-year residency for general otolaryngology at the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals (MCWAH), in the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery program.

"One can then choose to spend an additional one-to-two years to complete a fellowship that will certify them in one of the following fields: facial plastic surgery, pediatric otolaryngology, head and neck oncology, microvascular surgery, rhinology, neuro-otology, sleep medicine, laryngology or allergy medicine," he said. "I think the academic part of me will win and I will complete a fellowship with the hopes of practicing in an academic institution."

That is a typical choice for Daramola, who is not interested in the easiest of most convenient. While at Adams State, Daramola was president of the Associated Students and Faculty, and under his guidance AS&F initiated the first Associated Students and Faculty Awards, to honor faculty and staff nominated by students. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in cellular and molecular biology and chemistry/biochemistry, and was active in Tri Beta and the Black Student Alliance.

Determined and organized

As if these activities didn't keep him busy enough, Daramola also spent his senior year applying to medical schools.

According to Dr. Benita Brink, professor of biology, it is "incredibly difficult" for an international student to be accepted into a United State medical school. "Ope really did his research to find out which schools do admit international students and what it would take for him to get in," she said. "He was very determined and organized."

Those are two words which help define Daramola. Brink said from the first day she met him, as a freshman, he impressed her. She was Daramola's advisor and said although he was quiet and shy, he "had things figured out." She said he knew what he wanted and what he needed to get there. "I thought, 'this kid is going to make it,'" Brink said.

Harmon had the same perception: "He's got such a strong sense of self and a very sound understanding of who he is, where he comes from, and where he's going.

"Ope's an incredibly wise person, both academically and interpersonally, yet his wisdom never ever comes with self-importance. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and this makes him a very easy person to be around, an easy person to talk to, and an easy person to have as a friend."

This spring he became Opeyemi Daramola, M.D., an alumnus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis Medical School.

"The greatest challenge in medical education, at least for me, is creating time for friends and family," Daramola said. "The typical medical student wants to be in the top ten percent of the class. Given the caliber of most medical students, this is a great feat to accomplish. It is tough to accept that you cannot be the best in everything. However, you quickly learn to pick your battles...and win them. There are areas where you will struggle, and exams that you will barely pass. In the end, what matters is patient outcome. When I accepted my strengths and recognized my weaknesses, I developed a new sense of well being and tailored my goals to fit my needs: I knew when to drop the books, take a break and actually care about my patient's ailment without the notion of looking impressive to my seniors. It took about two years but it was worth it."

After residency, Daramola said he has "no lofty goals." He said he just wants to be a competent head and neck surgeon. "I want people to walk through my doors with the utmost confidence that they will receive the best care around. I want them realize that I am capable of taking care of them and consulting others when I am faced with pathology out of my league."

In love with science

His love of knowledge and interest in them medical field might have been sparked by his parents. Daramola's father is a historian/archivist who trained in Nigeria, Canada and Great Britain and his mother is a nurse.

"I grew up falling in love with science," Daramola said. "I had widespread interests but I never really developed a keen passion for anything else but biological sciences."

Born in Nigeria, Daramola's primary education, grades first through sixth, was completed in an international school. "My secondary school education was a bit intense because my future was unclear and I wanted to have an excellent resume to be qualified for any major in college. So, I worked hard to stay ahead of the game. The hard work paid off and I completed all exams required of high school graduates by the time 11th grade started. Afterwards, I was bored to death. I was not learning much in school. I had extra time to surf shopping malls and discovered exams for British and American schools. I registered for the exams (yes, I am a nerd), passed, applied to schools and here I am."

"I admire his determination and his drive to accomplish his goals, and most of all the fact that Ope never, ever expects anything to be handed to him," Harmon said. "I know he works extremely hard and yet, every time I talk to him or see pictures, he's got a big smile on his face, and I can hear that smile in his voice. He is very passionate about his education, his work, his goals and his life, and I think that's something anyone would admire."

Unforgettable moments

There are many in Porter Hall whom Daramola credits for his success in college and on in medical school. "Ultimately, I think each faculty member in Porter Hall had his/her role and I had experiences with each department."

However hard he worked on academics and leading the student government, Daramola recalls many other events as "ASC memories." He remembers fondly the haunted house his junior year, winning first place with a Tri-Beat presentation, being accepted as a resident assistant, after two rejections.

"Actually, it was probably three rejections but the part of my brain that stores rejections is consciously weak and I forget failures easily," Daramola said. "You learn from them, and, move on... I think those rejections galvanized me to be the best resident assistant for my residents."

Earning a perfect score on a tough physics exam is a top Daramola memory. "Hey, that's a big deal for a guy who loves to play with proteins he cannot see."

He said the senate retreat he organized in Taos with Chris Cross was spectacular, as was watching Dr. Carolyn Harper, emeritus professor of theater, perform in "W;t." "It was truly one of the best theater I have ever experienced," Daramola said. "I actually felt something. It was remarkable."

Also listed among Daramola's favorite memories are taking part in Tri Beta events, like tubing and making burritos, as was his graduation party and "embarrassing Kenneth Marquez (dean of student affairs) with a fart machine in his office."

Daramola said he is inspired by questions: "Specifically medical questions that have no clear answers. This is why I participate in research. It is no secret that I love to do research. I always want to continually pursue new information. Textbooks are limited...but the human brain is capable of achieving great things if you use it."

Nerd or not, Daramola's interests extend beyond medicine; he loves good art and architecture. "I can't wait to build my own house. It will be weird, I promise."

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By Linda Relyea