Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Empowering the future of healthcare through STEM education

Learn how colleague Alberta Okundaye wants to improve Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) education and access for women.
Deborah Shufelt
Published on March 25, 2024
<p>As a child, Alberta Okundaye discovered a medical encyclopedia in her family’s home and was immediately fascinated by the wonders of science. After moving to the United States from Nigeria at the age of 11, her passion continued: “It was a way for me to explore unknowns in the human mind, body, and the interconnectedness to the world around. A way to gain understanding behind why things are the way they are,” she reflects.</p>
<p>Her love for the field of STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, flourished throughout her academic journey, and Okundaye graduated with degrees in psychology and biology from the University of Massachusetts in Boston.&nbsp;</p><p>Today, she is the Global R&amp;D Continuous improvement project manager in the <a href="https://www.siemens-healthineers.com/point-of-care-testing">Point-of Care business area</a> at Siemens Healthineers. As part of her role, Okundaye leverages her scientific and technical expertise to empower her colleagues to identify opportunities for improvement and savings in ongoing research and development projects. The team aims to implement productivity solutions enabling R&amp;D efficiency and effectiveness.</p><p><br></p>

When asked to describe STEM’s importance, she draws upon the analogy of a tree, explaining how the stem represents the core of the organization and the root and leaves the organization's values. The fruits are the results or output. “The stem, or STEM, is essential for the future of the organization and the industry,” Okundaye explains. For her, STEM shapes and influences almost every part of our daily lives; from the technology we use to the medical treatments we receive. It is also critical for the future, as it will be the driving force behind advancements in technology and innovation in healthcare.
Alberta Okundaye loves to go on hiking trips

The Path to Mentoring

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Okundaye has a passion for helping young students. During the pandemic, she hatched a plan: "I love to go hiking. One day when I was planning for a new trip, I thought about all the kids who are currently forced to stay home.” Initially, as an outdoor enthusiast, she started taking some kids of her family and friends from her local community on walks amidst the rugged terrain of forest rocks and winding trails. There, she coached them to evaluate their options instead of focusing on roadblocks and giving them a space to thrive. 

What inspired her to do this on her own was an experience during her undergraduate study. Okundaye was accepted into the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experience (CURE) program, where she interned at Dana Farber, Harvard Cancer Center for two summer years.

Portrait photo of Alberta Okundaye.

And she wanted to mentor young teenagers and young adults who are experiencing the same challenges that she faced in high school and college. “This is the reason why every time I meet a young student, I take the time to get to know them and to give them tips or guidance that helps them achieve success in their educational and or career goals.”
<p>Today, mentoring and coaching still plays an important role in her professional life: she took on a leadership role for the <a href="Scholars%20in%20STEM%20and%20Sisters%20in%20STEM">Scholars in STEM and Sisters in STEM</a> chapters for Siemens Healthineers to expand its reach. The programs engage students in hands-on problem-solving activities with professionals. As a mentor and leader, Okundaye is a champion for early STEM exposure in underserved communities and identifies with their experiences. She does this by using her lived experiences from moving to the US: "I had to learn and adjust in school and within this new culture. Therefore, I understand the challenges of learning gaps and gaps in social-cultural norms and how they can impact your studies."</p>
Sisters in STEM connects middle school girls of color with employees who teach foundational and hands-on skills, and Scholars in STEM expands outreach to high school students, with employees serving as career coaches and speakers.
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In over three years, the programs have impacted 600+ students across 5 US cities and this reinforces Siemens Healthineers commitment to cultivating diversity and education in the STEM pipeline.
Logo of Siemens Healthineers' Scholars and Sisters in STEM programs.
<p>The success speaks for itself: “Our surveys have shown that 55% of students who formerly were uninterested in STEM careers are now interested in pursuing similar fields, thanks to the Healthineers mentors who shared their career paths and stories during the Scholars or Sisters program,” Okundaye proudly shares.</p>
Group photo of girls wearing black Siemens Healthineers shirts.

World Economic Forum

"Women make up almost half (49.3%) of total employment across non-STEM occupations, but just 29.2% of all STEM workers. When it comes to STEM occupations, women are scarce throughout all industries, apart from Healthcare and Care Services, where they represent 51.5% of the workforce."

Okundaye knows there is always more work in advocating for STEM and diversity with young students. When she reflects on STEM and the young, innovative minds entering organizations, she envisions them as the torchbearers of the next generation, which is crucial for yielding successful outcomes and sustainable growth in the healthcare industry.
Alberta Okundaye standing on a lookout. Behind her is a valley.

“STEM is the seed of our future. We have to cultivate the young minds who will grow it. As leaders in healthcare, who pioneer breakthroughs in healthcare, we must continue to grow through initiatives like the Scholars and Sisters in STEM programs.”

Alberta Okundaye

By Deborah Shufelt
Deborah Shufelt is an editor at Siemens Healthineers.