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A big move leads to even bigger opportunity for ASU grad

Bilha Obaigwa smiles at the camera wearing her graduation cap and gown and holding a stethoscope in hand.

Bilha Obaigwa is fulfilling her dream of earning a graduate degree thanks to a program from ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Courtesy photo

April 17, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Moving, no matter the distance, can be a big undertaking — but moving to another country? That's life changing.

Bilha Obaigwa made that life-changing leap in 2019 when she immigrated to the United States from Kenya, Africa. Once settled, she began looking at pursuing a graduate degree.

Having already earned a bachelor’s degree in law back home, and because she was working in the health field in the U.S., Obaigwa was drawn to ASU’s Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law for a master's degree in health law. Unfortunately, she learned that to continue down that path, she would need to start her academic career completely over.

“The contrast in legal frameworks between Kenya and the U.S. prompted me to reassess my career path, leading me to discover direct entry to the nursing program for individuals with diverse undergraduate backgrounds,” said Obaigwa.

It was a happy discovery. Instead of starting from scratch, she was able to take a few prerequisites at a local community college, before enrolling in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Master of Science in nursing (entry to practice) program.

“As an immigrant, this program has been great for me. My law background has been helpful, especially in the ethics, informatics and theoretical foundations of nursing classes,” she said.

Her experience further solidified this degree choice was the right one. From the quick entry to clinicals to apply what they were learning in class, to the expertise of faculty and connecting with her cohort, Obaigwa feels fully prepared to succeed after graduation, knowing she has a built-in support system. 

“At the end of the day, we became a family because if one of us was missing in clinical, or sick, we held each other up to make sure that we finished the journey, all of us together," Obaigwa said. "We are in constant contact to motivate each other and help each other.”

When she graduates this May, Obaigwa will have achieved her goal of earning a master’s degree while opening the door to new and exciting career opportunities. Below, she reflects on her time at ASU and shares how she’s planning to use her new degree.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My "aha" moment came when I realized that my LLB studies could seamlessly transition into the (Master of Science in nursing, with a concentration in entry to practice, program). This was the perfect opportunity to understand health care from within, aligning my academic background with my aspiration to be part of a community that fosters fair and inclusive health care practices.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: With its commitment to innovation and inclusivity, ASU was the ideal choice for me. The vibrant learning environment and the university's emphasis on community engagement resonated with my desire to contribute actively to health care. Throughout my journey, all my professors at ASU taught me crucial lessons — but most importantly that health care is not just a legal concept but a lived experience requiring a holistic understanding.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: As I reflect on my time at ASU, a valuable piece of advice for those still in school is to embrace interdisciplinary learning. The insights gained in classrooms and through various experiences surprised me, broadened my perspective on health care and reinforced my commitment to contributing meaningfully to a more just and inclusive health care system. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I eventually plan to leverage my background in law and nursing to advocate for health care equity and justice for my patients and fellow health care workers through legal nurse consultancy or forensic nursing.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If given $40 million to solve a global problem, I would tackle systemic barriers to health care access, addressing disparities hindering marginalized communities' well-being.

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