Monday, February 22, 2021

Eddy Airiohuodion, '17 PharmD and Genesis Board member, is passionate about many things: helping the clients who frequent the Walmart pharmacy he manages, providing life-saving medications to his home country of Nigeria, and supporting his wife, Olabimpe, and daughter, Isabelle. 

He’s also passionate about the UI College of Pharmacy. He says he learned alongside professors who valued his experience as a Nigerian-American, and past professional work as an accounting clerk for a multinational pharmaceutical company. Airiohuodion credits his work at IPCA Nigeria Limited for drawing him to a career in pharmacy.  

Additionally, Airiohuodion is an entrepreneur.  He is the director of operations at Chalice Pharmaceutics, a company whose intent is to improve access to affordable essential medicines to low-and middle-income countries.  

“All my life, healthcare has been on my mind,” he says. “When I was growing up, I helped my grandparents with their medications, and then when I started working as an accounting officer at IPCA, I focused on the regulatory side of the business. It was fascinating and convinced me to pursue a pharmacy degree.”

Airiohuodion arrived with his family in the U.S. in 2009, and started working as a pharmacy technician. He attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City for his pharmacy prerequisite coursework and came to the UI in 2013 to begin studying for his PharmD. During his four years at the College of Pharmacy, he says he was thrilled to work with professors and researchers, experiences that enriched his learning.

The overall excellence of the College is what drew me to the program, but then I ended up becoming friends with many professors, and I think this was such a great benefit...I always felt welcome and respected for my diverse experience and knowledge.

In 2015, Dean Donald Letendre sought out Airiohuodion to ask him about his experience at the College of Pharmacy. Airiohuodion was impressed by Letendre’s sincere interest and thoughtful questions about African American students’ view of equity and cultural sensitivity in the classroom.

“His interest showed me that he takes issues of equity seriously, and I thought it showed great leadership,” says Airiohuodion.

As the only African American on the Genesis Board, which provides input and guidance regarding the student experience, Airiohuodion says he appreciates the opportunity to spotlight gender and race equity. He believes that the College of Pharmacy is doing all that it can to support minority students.

“I was one of three African American students in my class, and I know that the College is eager to create a more diverse student body,” says Airiohuodion. “I think a diverse student body is rich in experience and ideas, and I will always look for ways to expand diversity. As a society, we are making progress, but we still have work to do.”

When he is not working at Walmart, Airiohuodion enjoys spending time with his wife, Olabimpe, an environmental engineer, and his toddler daughter, Isabelle. They currently reside in Omaha. His father and brother live in Kansas City, and the family is close-knit.

The mission of Chalice Pharmaceuticals is to supply more life-saving cancer medicines to Africa. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed the company, Airiohuodion and his family hope to begin operations as soon as possible.

“People with stage 3 and stage 4 cancer in Africa do not have access to many of the therapies we take for granted in the U.S.,” says Airiohuodion. “And so, they die, and this is unfortunate. One of my childhood friends lost his mother to breast cancer because of this problem. It was a tragedy.

“We’ve got to keep forging ahead.”