Karen Udoh

Fourth-year medical student
Founder, Future Healers Program

Karen Udoh has always shown up for her community.

She was deeply involved in social justice programs during her time in undergrad, including the MLK and Muhammad Ali Scholars programs, and volunteered at a shelter for refugee children while working on cancer research in Greece as a Fulbright Scholar. Her passion for helping people guided her to pursue a career in medicine.

“It’s just in my nature to do something to help where help is needed and show up to try to make this a better place,” Udoh, a fourth-year medical student, said. “I never want to ask myself ‘why wasn’t I there?’ when there are issues happening around me.”

Instead, Udoh asks herself, “How can I help in the most positive and effective way, to make sure people’s voices are heard?”

So, speaking up during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests was natural for Udoh, who helped organize the White Coats for Black Lives demonstration on UofL’s Health Sciences Campus. But Udoh understood there was more work to do to educate and empower the community.

“We knew we could hold a rally, but we wanted to build something that would make a positive and lasting impact in our community,” she said.

Thus began the Future Healers project.

Udoh wanted to lead an initiative that would address gun violence occurring not only in our city and region, but across the nation. In her time as a medical student, Udoh has treated gun violence patients as young as one and two years old. With help from her fellow medical students and faculty, she founded Future Healers, a program dedicated to helping Louisville youth affected by violence navigate their trauma and inspire them to build a better future for themselves, their communities and beyond.

“We have to hold up our end of our oath as doctors and make sure we’re doing our outreach beyond the hospital walls to be there for our community,” she said. “I hope through this program, we provide some light within the darkness these kids reside in.”

Future Healers encourages kids to pursue careers in health care and provides a safe place for children to heal from the physical and mental wounds of gun violence. The program has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly doubling its number of participants. Udoh hopes to continue expanding the reach and quality of programming, made possible with support from UofL Health and partnerships with the YMCA and Christopher 2X Game Changers.

Through her work with Future Healers, Udoh is helping children imagine a brighter future for themselves and providing a pathway for them to get there.

“A lot of the kids in the program don’t even think they’ll live to see the next day because they see so much violence, so it’s hard for them to dream and aspire to be something,” she said. “I do this to make sure that we are there for them, so that they can still live to dream and see their dreams become reality.”