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Stanford University School of Medicine

Stars of Stanford Medicine: Working to end global health disparities

Luqman Hodgkinson, PhD, describes his work to enhance medical opportunities in his native Kenya in this Stars of Stanford Medicine Q&A.

Luqman Hodgkinson, PhD, conducts research on HIV/AIDS and was involved in the establishment of the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology School of Medicine, the first medical school in his home of Kakamega, Kenya. I caught up with Hodgkinson, a third-year medical student, to learn more.

Do you live with family?

I actually live in two places. At Stanford, I live in the graduate student residences in Rains, but I also have a home in Kakamega, Kenya. When I'm at home I live with my foster parents and with the five children of my deceased foster brother, whom I've raised as my children. They are in the photo below, with me and my sister and her two children.

Why did you go into science and medicine?

I went into science and medicine for social justice - in particular, to address health disparities.

What are you working on?

I am working on a research project in which we are trying to quantify the effects of adherence to anti-retroviral medication on mortality among patients with HIV,  both adults and children. At the same time, I'm also helping with the opening of MMUST School of Medicine, which is the first medical school in the former western province of Kenya.

Why did you choose to come to Stanford?

That was an easy decision. Stanford has inspired me since 2003 - at the time, I was a college student. I had just begun studying computer science and took a trip to Stanford and really fell in love with the place. Ever since then, I had hoped that I would have a chance to come to Stanford, so when I was admitted on January 17, 2014, it was most likely the happiest day of my life.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in your field right now?

Ensuring that patients are monitored for resistance to anti-retroviral medication. This monitoring is difficult to do in rural areas of Kenya. When resistance develops, it is important that the proper medications are give... so monitoring for resistance is a very important development, and progress needs to continue to be made.

What do you find is most fulfilling about your work? What is most frustrating?

Most fulfilling is when we can develop relationships - I'm very excited about the various relationships we have developed up to now between MMUST School of Medicine and Stanford. These relationships can improve the health of medically underserved communities. What I find most frustrating are the health disparities that continue - really egregious health disparities in many cases where people are not receiving access to basic medical attention.

How do you unwind?

I like to run - I find it quite enjoyable at the Dish. At the very top of the Dish there is a beautiful, panoramic view of 360 degrees of mountains.

What are your favorite foods?

My favorite food is ugali, which is a thick dumpling made with maize flour. I enjoy eating it with vegetables.

Do you have a role model?

Yes, my foster father, Mzee Charles Mushila Shibeka -- his kindness and love for children motivate me daily.

What do you consider your ultimate career goal?

I would like to have an academic professorship in the United States and to lead efforts to improve health in rural areas of Kenya by building connections and working on global research projects... but I hope also to practice medicine in Kenya in the future.

Stars of Stanford Medicine is a new series introducing readers to some standout scholars in the School of Medicine.

Previously: Stars of Stanford Medicine: Poetry lover and aspiring physician-scientist and Stars of Stanford Medicine: In pursuit of the "Aha!" discoveries
Top photo by Alyssa Tamboura; bottom photo by Luqman Hodgkinson

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