Great Future Awaits RT Award Recipient
Respiratory therapy student Nkiruka Achionye’s first name means “my future is great” in her native language. This senior fully embodies the meaning of her name with her drive and her personality. Achionye recently received the NBRC/AMP William W. Burgin, Jr. MD and Robert M. Lawrence MD Education Recognition Award from the Association of Respiratory Care Foundation.
Like many Georgia State students, Achionye pursues her second degree. She earned her first bachelor’s in physics while living in her home country Nigeria. After moving to the US to start her family, Achionye enrolled in then-Georgia Perimeter College to work on pre-requisite courses for a degree in radiation therapy. However, she soon discovered that the field wouldn’t give her extensive interaction with patients. She began investigating respiratory therapy as another possibility. Achionye first considered Augusta University but was discouraged by the commute. She selected Georgia State instead after learning the program had a wide variety of clinical affiliations and a high pass rate (100% on the RRT exam) for its graduates’ licensure exams. She also liked that the faculty seemed driven by the students’ success.
For the Burgin/Lawrence Award’s required literature review, Achionye chose the relatively unknown condition pulmonary alveoli proteinosis (PAP). She was inspired to pursue the subject by a previous student’s presentation during her first year of the RT program. PAP is a rare lung disease caused by the collection of proteins and lipids active on the surface of type II alveolar cells. These cells decrease surface tension and divide cells to create more type I alveolar cells after lung tissue damage. PAP interferes with the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen, causing the patient to be more susceptible to infection or other underlying lung diseases.
Achionye is passionate about healthcare. None of her family members have taken this career path; her mother is a high school teacher, and her father was an accountant. But Achionye thinks the seeds of her chosen profession were present in childhood. She says she had an innate sense to tune in whenever she heard a cough, knowing something was wrong with the person and would advise them to see a doctor.
“I never knew this aspect of healthcare existed. I really wanted the one-on-one connection with patients and the opportunity to make a quality impact on patients’ health,” says Achionye.
Achionye is excited about her fall clinical rotations in the Piedmont Hospital ICU this fall and ever more eager to graduate and begin her career.
“I really feel like RT is my niche. I will be staying in RT. I have no interest in branching out from this career path I have found,” she says.