Sopuruchi Chukwueke grew up as an outcast in the village of Ovim in southeastern Nigeria. Tumors that distorted one side of his face wouldn’t stop growing, and a medicine man said he should be taken away and drowned. In 2001, when he was 15, his parents took him to an orphanage and abandoned him.
He was rescued by a missionary nun, who arranged for medical care in the U.S. Eleven years and seven operations later, doctors have removed the benign growths caused by the genetic disease neurofibromatosis and have performed reconstructive surgery.
In that time, Chukwueke, who lost his right eye to the tumors, has earned a high school equivalency diploma, achieved a 3.82 grade-point average as a biochemistry and chemical biology major at Wayne State University in Detroit and won acceptance to the University of Toledo’s medical school in Ohio.