Naadiyahtu Iddrisu hails from a small village in Ghana. A mother of young daughters, one of them born on her first year as a graduate student, she has consistently supported her family while excelling as a graduate student at The University of New Mexico. 

Iddrisu began her Inspiring Grad interview with a prayer.

“I give all praise to Almighty Allah who has made this day possible, granting us our health in a good state and bringing us to this particular venue at this particular moment,” she said. 

Iddrisu is graduating from UNM with her Master’s degree in Communication with a focus on health communication. Her research interest lies at the intersection of health communication, emerging health technologies, intersectionality and social justice.

“As a mother, as a wife, as a graduate student engaged in research and a teaching assistant, I still want to see my girls being well taken care of. I seek to conduct research that will translate into improving the lives of women and children's health, and by extension, people in deprived communities,” Iddrisu vowed. 

She arrived at UNM from Ghana in order to pursue her vision of attaining a graduate degree and with a side passion of returning to Ghana some day to establish a state of the Art Children’s Hospital in Tamale that promises to be the largest in the country to ease access to healthcare and health services for her home country. 

Her parents come from Yendi, the traditional capital of the Kingdom of Dagbon, and the seat of the paramount chief of the people of the Dagbamba in Ghana. In the small village called Gunduaw lies the souls of her ancestry which she duly acknowledged, Her parents moved to Accra, Ghana’s capital city, to settle down, due to the ambition of Iddrisu’s parents to see their children through school. 

“The intention was to give us access to all the educational facilities and other amenities that can help us in this journey. Even though I'm from this community, I got the privilege, aided by my parents, to study in the big cities in Ghana, starting from Accra and then moving to Kumasi for my undergraduate studies,” explained Iddrisu.

Her educational journey began at a small community school for middle school. After her basic education certificate exams, Iddrisu was the only one who had a single grade from the entire circuit. Her teachers saw great potential in her and helped her parents make the decision to continue to one of the best high schools in Ghana, Accra Girls’ High School.

She continued on to Kwame Nkrumah, University of Science and Technology, straight to the Department of Planning. In 2018, after graduating, she decided to take a break from her studies and began the journey of nurturing a family . She had three babies before finally taking up the decision again to go back to school for graduate studies. She applied to three schools and was admitted to two schools in 2022, but she was most drawn to UNM. 

“As a mother, as a wife, as a graduate student engaged in research and a teaching assistant, I still want to see my girls being well taken care of. I seek to conduct research that will translate into improving the lives of women and children's health, and by extension, people in deprived communities."

- 2024 Inspiring Graduate, Naadiyahtu Iddrisu

Now, preparing for her venture into Michigan State University’s doctoral program, Iddrisu recounts her first motivation for continuing her education.

“It comes from the very book that is foundational to humanity, which is the Qur’an. The first words that came down to humanity signifying the final words of the Almighty to humanity was for us to read.” Iddrisu said, “Right from our creation, we were made to seek knowledge. I keep on seeking knowledge and making this knowledge impactful to myself, my daughters, my family, and my community, in particular to my home country.” 

Iddrisu is a mother of three young girls. She had one of her little ones right here at The University of New Mexico Hospital. They are much of her motivation to seek a doctoral degree. 

“As a mother of three girls, I think that I always want something as a signal to point to them; to motivate them to do something. I want myself to be the first reference point to them to seek knowledge and excel in all aspects of their lives. I feel that getting this doctoral degree will be something that motivates them.”

When Iddrisu thinks back to the family she came from and her community at large, she acknowledges how uncommon it is to find women rise to this level. 

“It is not that we do not have women who have the potential, it is just that these potentials might not have been realized by these women themselves, in addition to other challenges that exist for them.”

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2024 Inspiring Graduate | Naadiyahtu Iddrisu

Iddrisu comes from a working class family with parents who are both not formally educated. Her parents raised her to pursue education.

This is why, Iddrisu explained, as a woman from such a family where most folks attaining high-level education are men, she took it upon herself to challenge those standards and be the first woman in her circle to have a doctoral degree.

“This will equally motivate other young ladies and girls to think that because I am from such a community and have been able to achieve this, they can also achieve it, beginning with themselves,” Iddrisu said. She would one day like to be a professor in communication to help mentor the next generation of health communication scholars in Ghana upon her eventual return home. 

Iddrisu spoke of giving birth to her daughter at UNMH in high regard. 

“When I had my little one here at UNMH, everybody tried to make sure that myself and my daughter were all fine. I think that the people back in my country deserve the same. We have what it takes to do the same for our people. If we want to rely on politicians and some leaders who don’t even think about us, then we will continue to find ourselves in the same situations,” she said. 

Most importantly, said Iddrisu, it starts with having it in you to go back to your community and serve. 

Iddrisu comes from a working class family with a history of financial challenges. 

Right after high school, she was doing petty trading when she came home on the weekends until she got into college. She helped her mother sell before she prepared to go for her internships each day, which is how the family was able to meet their financial needs.

“Though these were challenges back then, looking back, I think that this served as great opportunities that made me more resilient; it taught me many managerial skills that I don't know if any course I took could have taught me in terms of managing my finances, time, building resilience and contentment. And then, I mean, not giving up, because I wanted to do it, and so there was the need for me to do it.” This self-motivation has kept me going and soaring higher against all odds.

“Speaking as someone who has experienced three births in Ghana and one birth in the United States, I see the vast differences in the health systems and its services.”

While Iddrisu did not wish to make any comparisons in detail, she said these disparities tell her, “We can do better for our home country.”

Any time she gets such opportunities to talk, she uses them to further make folks aware of her intentions to establish the biggest children’s hospital for Tamale, Ghana, and by extension, she foresees it becoming the biggest children’s hospital in the West African subregion. 

“As a mother, I just believe that some of the lives of infants that we lose are preventable with the right interventions. Despite the decree of the almighty Allah, I feel every child needs to live. She said “I always walk and talk about my passion for the children’s hospital, hoping that one day I will meet the philanthropist who will help make this a reality.”

Balance, Iddrisu believes, is the mindset that helped her to see that these challenges are not obstacles, but part of her. She never stopped seeking help. Many people have been ready and willing to support her along her way, particularly beginning with her spouse. In her time at UNM, asking for help has made learning a wonderful way for Iddrisu to connect with other people. 

She would like to thank everyone in her department, from faculty, to staff, to colleagues. She would equally like to thank her professor, Tamar Ginossar, for being her backbone from her time in Ghana to her arrival in Albuquerque. 

“I cannot forget the countless times I’ve had to dash into her office, needing her guidance about one thing or the other. In all these times she helped me out. My colleagues now referred to her as my mother. I'm thankful to Professor Tamar for all that.”

“Finally, I cannot end without my sincere gratitude to my family, my husband and loved ones. As the last of seven children, I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy tremendous support from my family, my husband and many people who have loved me sincerely. You all occupy a special place in the depth of my heart. To my children, you are my inspiration and light in this world.”