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Student Spotlight

Abiola Okeyode: Inspired to Serve

September 22, 2008

A native Texan with Nigerian parents, ASU graduate student Abiola Okeyode plans to use the physical therapy skills she is learning in her home state to help the people of her parents’ home country.

Born in Dallas, Okeyode left for Nigeria with her parents at an early age. There, she was raised in Lagos until she was nine years old and then went off to a boarding school about three hours from home.

While still very young, Okeyode was exposed to the benefits of physical therapy after her grandmother, Felicia, suffered a stroke and required help to do even basic tasks like bathing and dressing. Okeyode’s father is a physical therapist and his treatments not only aided Felicia, they inspired Abiola as well.

“I remember my dad would come home from work and teach her some activities such as range of motion exercises, gait training with a cane and how she could adapt to the activities of daily living,” Okeyode said. “I was amazed when I came back from (boarding) school and my grandmother was able to walk again with a cane. My siblings also informed me that she was doing her bathing and dressing by herself again. That motivated me to have a career that could make a difference in the lives of others, especially after some medical diagnosis has left them impaired in functional activities.”

To that end, Okeyode returned to Texas after high school, got her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas and enrolled in the ASU physical therapy program.

“I chose ASU because of the class size,” Okeyode said. “The faculty-to-student ratio is very good and I felt I would get the best learning experience with that. I also liked the fact that there is a great scholarship program for graduate students. Finally, I chose ASU because of the location in a smaller city that would help me concentrate on my studies and strive for the best.””

In addition to working through the intense physical therapy curriculum, Okeyode has volunteered at various community events, gotten married and gave birth to her first child, Damilola Christina Balogun, in September. Once the new mother receives her degree, her ultimate goal is to start a physical fitness program back in Nigeria.

“The fitness program in Nigeria is already in the process as my dad has acquired a property for the center,” Okeyode said. “The center will be focused more on people with risks for cardiovascular diseases and maintenance programs for people in post-stroke rehab.”

But that doesn’t mean that Okeyode will be long gone as soon as she graduates.

“I would first like to get some PT experience in as many fields as possible and secure funds for about five years here in the United States before really pursuing the fitness program,” Okeyode said. “I will still be practicing here in the U.S. even when the fitness program is running in Nigeria, so I can stay current on more advanced technology and new research ideas.”

In the meantime, Okeyode will take some time off with her husband, Yomi Balogun, and their new baby, then return to ASU to finish her PT master’s degree that she is slated to receive in May.

“I think I have made a really good choice coming to ASU,” she said, “because I have learned a lot from this experience and feel I have accomplished a great goal in my life.”

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