Busha Hika jokes that he decided to become a doctor as a small boy after he accompanied his mother on a long walk to a missionary clinic in another Ethiopian village. Entering the clinic, he was greeted with the antiseptic scents of iodine tincture and isopropyl alcohol.
“I thought, ‘Oh, this smells good. I want to work in this environment,’ ” he said with a laugh.
The actual source of his medical motivation was no joke.
“I was born in a rural area, a remote village, so there was no access to electricity, no road, no clean water,” he said. “You see people dying from preventable diseases. You see mothers dying delivering babies. Becoming a doctor and helping them was my childhood dream.”
Hika, who recently completed his first year at the MU School of Medicine, has gone to extraordinary lengths to try to fulfill that dream, and he got some last-minute help when he was awarded MU’s Medical Minority Scholarship.
Hika grew up in a mud house where he read by the light of a kerosene lamp. The middle school he attended was a 90-minute walk from his village. After high school, he received nursing training from the Ethiopian government. Because physicians are scarce in the country — particularly the rural areas — nurses do the work of doctors. While he was still a teenager, Hika began helping women deliver babies by himself.
“I delivered 100 babies at least,” he said.
By his early 20s, Hika was promoted to manager of health services for a district that served a population of 60,000 citizens. But he still dreamed of attending medical school in the United States and becoming a doctor. He submitted his name to the U.S. Diversity Immigrant Visa program. In 2012, he was selected via lottery.
Hika landed in Minnesota in November without a coat, and that was just the first of the shocks to his system. The language, food and technology were new. He had a plan to address that. He joined the Army National Guard, which gave his days structure and paid his college tuition at South Dakota State University.
“When you see me, I am not very muscular, but what I learned is being a soldier is not just physical strength, it’s mental strength,” Hika said. “The drill sergeant is yelling at you. It’s not like they want you to do 80 percent or 90 percent. It’s 110 percent on everything, even the way you fold your socks. It was challenging, but I liked it.”
After graduating with a degree in human biology, he was accepted into the MU School of Medicine. But there was the matter of paying for medical school. A huge burden was lifted when he received MU’s Medical Minority Scholarship.
“When I was a child, my family didn’t have enough money to put food on the table for us,” Hika said. “When I was an undergrad, there was a time when I worked two jobs because I was supporting my family. Medical school is expensive, so it would have been very challenging for me. This scholarship will help me to achieve my childhood dream.”