As children in the African country of Cameroon, Delvise and Leslie Fogwe were separated from their mom and each other for about five years. Their father had died, and their mother, Grace, didn’t have the means to support five sons. The kids were dispersed to aunts and uncles, who helped raise them.
As a teenager, Delvise often stopped by the health center where his mother worked as a janitor.
“That’s how I got exposed to the doctor that was in charge of the health center,” Delvise said. “I would go there on days when he had down time, and he would show me around. That’s how I got interested in medicine.”
That interest in medicine ultimately led to a family reunion in Missouri. Delvise, a second-year student in the MU School of Medicine, and Leslie, a first-year medical student, now live together in Columbia with their mom and a younger brother, Desmond.
The journey to the United States began in Delaware. Before their father’s death, the older sister of Delvise and Leslie immigrated to Delaware. Other family members, including Grace, eventually followed. Delvise, 30, and Leslie, 24, got their undergraduate degrees at Delaware State.
Delvise was the first to graduate. After applying for medical school, he was invited to six interviews. He initially knew nothing about Missouri. After his interview at MU, he was sold on the small class sizes, the patient-based learning curriculum and the city of Columbia, which he said was small enough to be comfortable for someone who grew up in the town of Mbengwi, which has a population of about 10,000.
When Leslie was ready to apply last year, his older brother, who was having a good experience at MU, helped recruit him.
“He gave me a good word about Mizzou and how classes were going and how the PBL process worked,” Leslie said. “That was enticing. But I also wanted to explore options. I put a couple of applications in. I had interviews with UAB in Alabama and Penn State. I went to Wayne State in Michigan. At the end of the day, I was accepted by UAB, Penn State, Wayne State and Mizzou.
“I was very impressed by Mizzou’s process. It was really fast and responsive. They accepted me the same day as my interview. I was really encouraged by that. To me, it was a sign they wanted me here and valued my presence.”
The brothers are keeping their options open regarding specialties. Delvise is interested in interventional radiology and Leslie is considering oncology, among others. Both want to practice in the United States but also do a partnership or medical expeditions in Cameroon.
For now, Missouri is home. Although reunited, the brothers have busy schedules that don’t allow much fraternizing.
“When I get up at 6, he’s gone,” Leslie said. “When I come back, he’s sleeping.”
Still, it’s nice to be reunited with family, including their mom, who moved here in June.
“She cooks, she cleans and she doesn’t understand that we are trying to lose weight,” Delvise said with a laugh. “When there’s food, she’s like, ‘You have to eat. You have to eat.’ ”