For those who don’t know him, it might be surprising to hear that the preferred extracurricular activity of Uzodinma C. Iweala ’04, author and M.D., in college was “sleeping.” But evidently, he would need his rest for his future literary and medical pursuits. Since graduation, Iweala released “Beasts of No Nation,” his 2005 novel exploring the world of a child soldier in a fictional African country, and received a degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“Ask most anyone who knows me—I fell asleep in most of them,” claims Iweala when asked about his favorite classes at his alma mater. Nonetheless, at Harvard, the English concentrator was not only the recipient of a Hoopes Prize and a Dorothy Lee Hicks Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis, but also completed his pre-med requirements.
Iweala was motivated by that insatiable appetite for knowledge demonstrated by many Harvard students. “There’s an intellectual curiosity that drives the people I met and became close to, and I think I fed off of that.”
He does admit, though, that multitasking is not as easy in the real world. “Med school and trying to work on a book is like getting punched in the face repeatedly and not blacking out.” However, the success of “Beasts of No Nation”—for which he won numerous awards—and the imminent release of his second book on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria suggest that medical school has hardly hindered his career as an author.
And 10 years from now? “The main thing I want for myself is to be enjoying what I’m doing and to be making a difference doing it. I’ll let the universe work out the rest,” he says.
In the mean time, perhaps he’ll use his nonexistent free time to fulfill his lifelong dream of wingsuit base jumping in Norway.