Clinton Ehidom


Clinton Ehidom has come a long way in the four years since he was an ambitious but underachieving freshman at York College.

Ehidom had emigrated to the Bronx from Nigeria when he was 12 and full of promise. He’d had a strong primary education in his home country, did well enough to skip a grade and arrived here hoping to become a doctor one day. His performance in high school, though, didn’t match his aspiration. He says he was an indifferent student at Fredrick Douglass Academy III in the Bronx and graduated with a C+ average.

But something clicked when Ehidom began college at York. And now, about to turn 20, he’ll graduate as a biology major with a perfect science GPA and his dreams fully intact: He’s been accepted by six medical schools and counting.

“I knew I had to change my mindset,” Ehidom says of his entry to college at 16, and he credits York with sparking his transformation. “The more experiences I had at York College, the more I knew I was right in my decision to come here. It’s having this close collaboration with professors and small class sizes. The community feel at York College also sets it apart. The students are amazing.”

Ehidom lives in the Bronx with his father and two younger siblings, both of whom also are aspiring physicians. His mother remains in Nigeria, pursuing a doctorate in public administration. It was from that family background that Ehidom found his way forward. He became a dedicated student and looked for ways to make himself a strong contender for medical school when the time came.

“He came in with a pretty clear plan about what he wanted to do,” recalled Andrew Criss, York’s premedical adviser, who met Ehidom in his freshman year. “He was in my anatomy and physiology course and, as usual, he got an A. I also worked closely with him as he took over the presidency of the premed club during fall of 2016.”

After his sophomore year, Ehidom participated in a coveted six-week summer program at Yale School of Medicine that prepares students from underrepresented groups to successfully apply to medical school. Among other experiences, he shadowed a physician to get a fuller understanding of a doctor’s daily work and life.

Meanwhile, at York, Ehidom met Francisco Villegas, an associate professor of behavioral science who studies Alzheimer’s disease, and asked to volunteer in his lab. “Students have to give me all they have,” Villegas says. “They have to put in the hours or they don’t come back.”

Ehidom proved to be just that kind of passionate student and soon he was helping Villegas design a study testing whether a procedure known as deep brain stimulation improved the performance of rats in tasks requiring sustained attention. Villegas says Ehidom was a hands-on presence during the first round of the experiment. “Clinton is motivated and focused,” he said. “He never gives up.”

Criss adds, “Everybody raves about him, saying ‘He’s the best student I’ve ever had.’ He goes out of his way to help other students” – mentoring, tutoring in biology and chemistry, and even organizing study groups for the entire anatomy and physiology lab.

“He’s younger than his classmates, which makes his maturity and work ethic even more impressive,” Criss says. “You know he’s going on to great things.”

Ehidom’s dedication has paid off in medical school acceptance letters. So far, he’s gotten good news from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, Stony Brook University School of Medicine and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Ehidom says he’s leaning toward cardiothoracic surgery as a specialty but acknowledges that may change as his medical education progresses. Meanwhile, he looks back at his four years of undergraduate study with modesty, along with gratitude for the support of teachers like Jong-Ill Lee in chemistry and Margaret MacNeil in biology. “I got a lot of help from professors and that is why I came this far,” he says.


The City University of New York’s aggressive commitment to career development has already placed thousands of students in paid internships, some leading to post graduation jobs. In the public sector alone, the University arranges internships for 600 students in 18 city agencies. This goes a long way toward solving the city’s need for talent, while ensuring a diverse work force.

Meetups – such as the one at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s massive new hub for technology and food-production companies – are a key means of introducing students who may not have firm ideas about career paths to entrepreneurs who are powering New York City’s economy today and will shape it in the coming decades.

“CUNY Career Meetups is our response to build our students’ networks by visiting over 50 firms this year in a variety of industries, meeting staff and CUNY alumni, and getting the inside view into careers and opportunities,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken. “Touring state-of-the-art facilities in manufacturing tech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, understanding civic tech at Sidewalk Labs, learning about postproduction film and TV editing at Technicolor, and touring the city’s center for anti-terrorism and emergency management is what will inform and widen the experiences of our students. And importantly, it is the easiest way for NYC firms of any size and in any industry to get to know our talented students, and to open the door to hiring our graduates.”

Social capital and networks are what open the doors to hiring, Chancellor Milliken said, “Through our meetups, we will help tens of thousands of CUNY students build the networks and professional connections they need to navigate their careers and be prepared for the ever-changing future of work.”

Over the next academic year, CUNY will be launching meetups in these 10 areas: allied health care, art/creative media, business operations, finance, hospitality and marketing, human services, industry and construction, life sciences, public sector, and technology, with several already under way. For example, a recent public-sector meetup occurred at the city’s Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn. A meetup at Technicolor Post Works in SoHo, which supplies editorial and finishing services for film and television, brought together firms that operate in that sector. And students got to explore finance at Point72, an investment firm.

The CUNY Tech Meetup at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s new 16-story, 1 million-square-foot Building 77, like the others, invites students from all 24 CUNY campuses. It starts at 5 p.m. at Building 77 at the corner of Vanderbilt and Flushing Avenues. Students will begin three tours of the facility starting at 5:15. At 7 p.m. there will be a panel discussion with tech entrepreneurs.

For their part, the entrepreneurs hope to spot upcoming and often hard-to-find talent that they can help develop through paid internships and, after graduation, even jobs.

“The two CUNY interns we had last summer were sharp and bright and willing to wear the many hats of a startup culture,” said Nick Molinski, co-founder and chief technology officer of the startup Acculis.

This semester he was able to offer one of them a part-time job, working on software that gives building contractors 3D information on their smart phones and pads to augment the 2D blueprints they traditionally have used to guide construction. “We’re very happy with these CUNY students,” he said.

CUNY’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development unit arranges the meetups as a part of the University’s Career Success Initiative. The initiative helps students learn essential workplace skills that will prepare them for internships and jobs, as well as to find academic majors that will provide the academic back background they will need.

Its signature program is #CUNYCodes. This is an industry-focused, co-curricular program, which for the past three years has given students advanced training in software development that aligns with local industry’s needs for entry-level talent. Over 10 weeks, the students build apps under the guidance of savvy industry mentors and then pitch their creations to an audience that includes tech businesspeople. #CUNYCodes is expected to expand to multiple campuses in fall 2018.

Stuart Smith, a 2017 College of Staten Island graduate, was in #CUNYCodes’ initial group in 2014. While he was a student, CUNY helped him secure an internship at New York City Small Business Services. “The main thing there was I learned to work in a professional environment, how to interact with co-workers and how to ask questions and to get help, ”Smith said. As a result, when he interviewed for the software engineering job he now holds at JPMorgan Chase, he had solid experiences to discuss.

Smith is a firm believer in #CUNYCodes, where he now volunteers as a mentor. “We developed a mobile app to facilitate sales or trades of textbooks among students,” he said. His key takeaways were not only the nuts and bolts of conceiving and coding an app, but also how to work in teams, which is how he now works at JPMorgan.

CUNY’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development unit has two other meetups this month. One is in film, TV and media on April 24 at Harbor, a SoHo, N.Y., full-service production and postproduction studio. The other is on April 26 in trading and investing at a location to be decided. Also, it will be hosting its next #CUNYCodes Demo Night on May 2 at Fiterman Hall, Borough of Manhattan Community College.

The hackathon is co-sponsored by IBM and Google. Students are mentored by experts from those and other leading tech companies in New York. To assist with the “Hack Gotham” theme, CUNY Startups has also enlisted the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, whose staffers will teach a workshop in using open data from the city that can inspire ideas for apps that could make life better for New Yorkers.