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Former USU WR Nnamdi Gwacham Working On Front Lines In New Jersey During Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo courtesy of Utah State Athletics

LOGAN, Utah – Nnadmdi Gwacham is working as a medical professional on the front lines in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gwacham wanted to a doctor ever since he was in boarding school in Nigeria when he suffered a lower leg injury. The principal at the school told him that a doctor would not see him because there were not doctors around.

“I want to be the doctor for the next 10-year-old boy who’s told that he can’t be seen by a doctor because there were none around,” Gwacham told Utah State’s Wade Denniston.

Now, Gwacham is living his dream as a healthcare worker. He graduated from Utah State in 2009 and is now an OB/GYN chief resident at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, an affiliate of RWJBarnabas Health, in Livingston, N.J.

Gwacham, who was a wide receiver for the Aggies from 2006-09, earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in the spring of 2009. He also participated in track & field at Utah State, helping the Aggies capture the 2007 Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Championship.

Battling COVID-19

As the United States and world battles COVID-19, many essential employees and health care providers are on the front lines of the pandemic.

While working at a hospital in New Jersey, Gwacham said that he and his family are doing well.

“I’m doing well. I have been fortunate that my immediate family has been unaffected, for the most part during these hard times, at least from a health standpoint,” Gwacham said. “The economic impacts are obvious, but we have been lucky to stay healthy during these times. Some of my friends and colleagues have been afflicted, but have thankfully recovered.”

Gwacham is taking every precaution in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We have really heeded the guidelines regarding social distancing in an effort to minimize exposure,” stated Gwacham. “Obviously, I still have to come to work on a daily basis, but when I am not at work, I have tried to minimize the amount of time that I spend outside of my home. Things I generally take for granted like going to the grocery store or the gym have gone by the wayside now to keep others from getting sick.”

This last month, Gwacham was supposed to be finishing up his residency and getting ready to graduate but has been needed to assist the hospital in New Jersey with coronavirus patients.

“These were supposed to be the last few months of residency for me, which were meant to be filled with events for our graduating residents,” mentioned Gwacham. “Instead, given the surge of sick patients and limited resources, even some of our OB/GYN residents have been tasked to help out the ICU efforts. Things like routine elective surgeries are now on hold while our resources have been shifted to tackle the pandemic. We still have to take care of obstetric patients and emergencies therein, and have taken the necessary measures to properly screen those patients upon their arrival to the hospital to better protect the healthcare team and others in the hospital.”

Gwacham has seen many things at the hospital during this pandemic that many people in the general public don’t know or see. His message to the general public is to finish strong.

 “I have had colleagues and mentors that have been affected by the disease that note just how horrific it can be,” he said. “I have seen countless families lose loved ones, both young and old. I commend what we have done from a social distancing standpoint, to help mitigate the impact. My message to the general public is to stay the course. We have come so close to begin turning the corner and flattening the curve, and we cannot afford to reverse all the good that has been done thus far. I, too, understand the economic impact that this is having on our country, but we cannot safely loosen up restrictions and guidelines until we are certain that our healthcare resources are capable of handling the potential number of sick patients. So, my message is to finish strong. We’ve already come so far and are so close to the end!”

Journey To Becoming A Doctor

Gwacham’s journey to becoming a doctor started with that lower leg injury he suffered in boarding school. That day stuck with him forever.

 “Something about that statement in the moment found me trying to defy and change his narrative about the impossibility of a young boy’s wounds being tended to by a healthcare professional,” Gwacham said. “Somehow, I thought to myself, ‘I want to be the doctor for the next 10-year-old boy who is told that he can’t be seen by a doctor because there were none around.’ It was a momentary thought that burgeoned when I became older and gained a curiosity for medicine and the sciences.

Gwacham felt like his student-athlete experience at Utah State helped him to this point.

“I was privileged to have the complete experience at Utah State as a student-athlete, both as a competitor and an administrator,” Gwacham stated. “I was privileged to serve in a number of leadership positions. As a student-athlete, I learned how to juggle sport and academic responsibilities. I also learned how to work as a cohesive unit toward achieving a goal. So much of medicine is really about personality, or the ability to deal with people effectively, and the ability to lead people. I believe those are characteristics that student-athletes possess that invariably help in a career in medicine.”

In honor of our former student-athletes who are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus around the world, Utah State Athletics has created the Q&A series: Aggie Healthcare Heroes. If you are a former USU student-athlete and are on the frontlines of the pandemic, please contact Wade Denniston at wade.denniston@usu.edu.

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.