Super Falcons defender Michelle Alozie talks to FIFA about her dual passions of medicine and football
Being a professional athlete is tough. It involves long days, large amounts of travel, and the physical toll that comes with pushing your body to the limit.
Strenuous, too, is medical research. Spending long hours poring over papers. Conducting countless trials that may or may not yield useful results. Keeping up-to-date with the ever-changing world of medicine.
Now imagine doing both.
That is the reality for Super Falcons defender Michelle Alozie, who spends her morning training with Houston Dash in the NWSL and her afternoons at Texas Children’s Hospital as a research technician studying acute leukemia and cancer.
“I’ll probably be done with training around 1pm,” she explained to FIFA. “I’ll head straight to the children’s hospital, get there around 1.30pm, probably have our team meetings, and then just go about my day until about 5pm.”
A dual passion
Alozie’s genuine love of both football and medicine shone throughout the interview. Passion is the reason that she is able to sustain two careers at once.
“It’s crazy to think about,” she explained. “It’s not necessarily a field that I thought I was going to find myself in but it is so amazing to be able to have an impact on children’s lives. Childhood cancer isn’t something that’s researched that much. Being able to be a part of that and be a part of that research is just such a blessing.
“I have a passion for helping people. Thankfully biology was something that I was really good at in school and so medicine just seemed like the correct option there. Again, it’s just amazing to meet these young kids that I’m helping find a cure for their cancer. It means everything to me.”
The defender explained that she was born to play football, but grew to love medicine.
“I have been playing soccer since I was four or something like that and, being Nigerian, soccer, or football, is really just in our blood,” she said, smiling. “But I just have this fascination with medicine and I know it’s a career path that I would love to be in when I can’t run on the field anymore.”
Needing to find time for more than one career is a situation familiar to so many female athletes. Doubt does creep in on occasion for Alozie, but she never forgets her ‘why.’
“I think sometimes I might feel like I’m not doing enough for either soccer or in my research lab,” she reflected, “but I think I’m overall just really grateful. I know that it’s two of my passions and what makes it really worthwhile is that I just love doing both of them. So being able to do them simultaneously, thankfully with both of my jobs, it’s amazing and really just a blessing to be able to live my passion and my childhood dream.”
Of course, it has not always been easy for the Nigerian international, who is determined not to let down her coaches or Dr Alex, her boss at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“I think at first it was definitely a little bit difficult to balance the two,” she admitted. “But honestly, just growing up being an athlete, we learn to balance pretty young in life. It was kind of easy after a while.”
Will there come a point where the defender has to choose?
“In the next few years I’m not really sure – the role isn’t something you’re in for a long time – but I just know that I want to be in medicine and continue that career once I’m done with my soccer career.”
Don’t call me doctor!
Michelle Alozie obtained a Bachelors Degree in Molecular Biology from Yale University. Her degree has given her the skills to conduct her work as a researcher, but it doesn’t give her the right to be called a doctor… yet.
Not that it stops her team-mates from coming to her with their medical issues.
“I feel like any time something happens, if there’s a little injury, if someone gets knocked, if their stomach hurts, they come to me!” she laughed. “I’m like, ‘Guys, I’m not a doctor, I actually don’t know what’s going on internally with you!’”
That doesn’t mean that studying medicine and obtaining the title of doctor is off the table. On the contrary, it is very much in her long-term plans.
“I’m definitely going to play soccer until I literally cannot run anymore! I know medical school will always be there and it will definitely be there when my bones are brittle,” she grinned.
“Hopefully in a few years they can actually call me Dr Alozie. But now I just need to be Michelle.”