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Medical Scare Transforms the Life of QCC Grad

November 2019
  • QCC 2016 alumna Laurence Fankep
    QCC 2016 alumna Laurence Fankep

Overcoming the odds is nothing new to Quinsigamond Community College 2016 alumna Laurence Fankep. Ms. Fankep lives in Worcester, a far cry from her native Cameroon, where she emigrated from in 2011 with her husband and young daughter. She is poised to graduate from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) with her pharmacy degree in May 2020 and said it’s all thanks to Quinsigamond Community College, a place she fondly calls “home.”

As a native French speaker, life was not always easy when she got to Worcester and she struggled to understand the English language. In 2014, after having her second child and pregnant with her third, she decided to look into programs that could help with her English, as well as advance her education. She decided to choose QCC for its flexibility, affordability and location; enrolling in the General Studies program, while taking English as Second Language (ESL) classes.

“I wanted to do something in nursing or in the health field, but I wasn’t sure just what,” she said. “At first it was hard for me to understand and interact with people because I only spoke French. Kathy (ESL Professor Kathleen Lewando) was really so helpful to me from the start.”

Ms. Fankep attended QCC full-time throughout her pregnancy and was thriving. In fact, she was in class the day before delivering her third child; however, what should have been one of the happiest moments in her family’s life turned into a life-threatening scare when she developed a blood infection (sepsis) after giving birth to her son that next day.

“I was very sick and it was one of the worst moments of my life. I didn’t know the American term ‘sepsis’… it was so scary. My son was also sick when he was born,” she said.

Thankfully, Ms. Fankep and her son recovered and after three weeks she was released from the hospital, grateful to be O.K., but wanting to make sense of what had happened to her.

“I wanted to know what was going on. I read my health report but I couldn’t understand it and I was so depressed. I wanted to know what had happened and I told my husband I wanted to go to pharmacy school to understand about sepsis shock and the treatment and medications,” she said. “This was such a difficult moment in my life because my other children were 5 and barely 2 years old. “

While she knew the challenges she would face changing majors, particularly with three young children at home and going into an area of study (science) that she was unfamiliar with, she was not deterred.  

“I got back from the hospital on a Friday and on Monday I was back at school. I got all the material I missed, took my final exams and did well,” she said, adding, “I had wonderful, supportive professors.”

Not only did she take her exams, she also changed her major to pre-pharmacy and never looked back. Under the tutelage of Chemistry Professor and Pre-Pharmacy Coordinator Dilip Patel, Ms. Fankep excelled.

“I was so scared at first but Professor Patel said ‘you are smart and I know you can do it,” she said. “He was very, very supportive.”

Ms. Fankep said the math and writing tutoring centers, coupled with her professors, were also instrumental in her success at QCC. So successful that she was asked to become a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) and subsequently became a PTK officer.

“The tutoring centers were great resources for me,” she said, noting that she went from using the tutoring centers to becoming a tutor herself.

Having a mentor in Dean of Compliance Liz Woods was also instrumental in her progress at QCC.

“She was always there to listen to me when I was nervous or stressed,” she said adding that PTK Advisor Bonnie Coleman was also someone she could turn to for support.

“Being a PTK officer was scary at the beginning because I’m shy, but Bonnie was there to tell me I could do it,” she said.

The Road to MCPHS

As Ms. Fankep neared graduation, she was encouraged to apply to MCPHS after discussing her options with Professor Patel. Not only did she get accepted, she also earned a $30,000 scholarship. English Professor Michael Gormley worked with her on the scholarship application.

“He reviewed my first draft and told me I had to sell myself. I came back with my second draft and he helped me again so I could get it just right,” she said.

Ms. Fankep is now in her final months at MCPHS where she has worked to complete her pharmacy degree, while raising her three children (now 9, 7 and 5) and doing her clinical rotations at area pharmacies. She is in the end stages of these rotations, and while she does not have a concrete plan yet on what she will do after she graduates in May, she has already been offered a job with one of the pharmacies that she did a clinical rotation.

A Foundation for Success

She encourages everyone to take a look at QCC. She was so enthusiastic about the College that her husband, Edris Lodue, also came to QCC and earned a Computer Systems Engineering Technology Certificate.

Her advice to others who are considering attending college is simple.

“You have all the support that you need here at QCC. Just go for it. There’s always someone to talk to.” she said. “I will always come back here to visit…QCC is where I started. I love this place.”