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Adebowale “Debo” Ogunjirin

Adebowale “Debo” Ogunjirin, 42, of Woodbridge, VA, was born in Nigeria and became deaf at age 9 due to illness. Motivated, skilled, and knowledgeable, he graduated from Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacology.

“At that time, college education for deaf students was barely supported by Nigeria,” Ogunjirin says. “So I had to do most of the studies on my own.”

He thrived by attending classes to familiarize himself with the topics discussed and then laboriously copying notes from classmates and managing all of his reading on his own.  He used this same method to earn a master’s degree in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology from the University of Lagos, also in Nigeria.

“I fell in love with Pharmacology because it exposes me to a diversity of fields of study, from plants to animals,” he says.

After working as a pharmacist for five years in Lagos, Ogunjirin came to the United States in 2005 to earn his Ph.D.  But he has been unable to work in his chosen field because he does not yet have a U.S. license to dispense medication.

His efforts have been stymied by the misunderstandings and misconceptions that can make pursuing a health care career so difficult for deaf people.

“As a rule, the American Pharmacy Board must certify internationally awarded certificates in Pharmacy,” he says. “I met all of their criteria to be certified, including taking the written examinations without a special assistant. Then I was informed that I couldn’t be certified because I was unable to meet the oral requirement in spoken English.”

Through negotiations and the threat of legal action, the board, after several years, agreed to certify him.

“The Pharmacy Board that regulates the practice of pharmacy in this country has yet to come to terms with the evolving world of the deaf,” he concludes.

His efforts to obtain an internship – a prerequisite for foreign-trained pharmacists licensed in the U.S. – so far have been unsuccessful.

“Students at the local institutions normally satisfy this requirement before graduation,” he says. “My inability to secure a place for more than two years now indicates that the job market, though ripe for pharmacists, is not receptive to the idea of a deaf pharmacist.”

 Ogunjirin now works as a temporary instructor of Biology at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and continues trying to reach his dream of becoming a pharmacist in this country.

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