Biology Alumna Addresses Medical Needs With Emergency Response Africa

When Folake Owodunni came to the University of Oregon from Nigeria in 2005 to study premed, she knew she wanted to help people. Today, her international health technology company is poised to help people across Africa. 

It’s difficult for many people on the continent to get emergency health care, says Owodunni, BS ’08 (biology). 

“People drive themselves to hospital or they get a taxi to take them and then might actually be turned away because [the hospitals] don’t have space, staff, or the right equipment,” Owodunni says. “This happens every single day.” 

Owodunni cofounded Emergency Response Africa, which is building a network of first responders, emergency vehicles, and hospitals to serve people experiencing medical emergencies. 

Building the infrastructure is a massive undertaking. But the company has received help from the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, which supports Black-led businesses, and other development partners and investors. 

The company, which launched in March 2021, is operating in three major Nigerian cities: Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, with plans to expand services to four more cities over the next few months. “Our hope is that within a few years we’ll be in Ghana as well as several other African countries,” Owodunni says. 

Owodunni completed her master’s degree in global health and development at University College London but credits her undergraduate biology and chemistry professors for laying the important framework of learning she received at the UO. 

“I love what I’m doing,” Owodunni says. “I feel incredibly privileged to have this opportunity, and grateful to every single person who has been on our path to getting to where the company is now and where we are going.” 

—By Sharleen Nelson, BS ’06 (journalism: magazine, news/editorial), University Communications 

—Photo by Chidi Nwankwo, Chyder5 Studios