Latest degree is culmination of long journey for student

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | May 04, 2018

Image with caption: Ralph Abalo

Ralph Abalo

Ralph Abalo, who will graduate Saturday with a master of perfusion science degree from the College of Allied Health Professions, has a story of how he got here. It began on May 22, 2004. He knows the exact date, because that is when he first came to the United States.

"It's a blessing not given to everybody," he said.

He came from the nation of Togo in west Africa. He came to play soccer at Bellevue University. But he blew out his knee before his Bruins' career even began, underwent surgery, went home. And then he came back. This time with academics as his top priority.

Without a soccer scholarship, he took a job working in environmental services, here at the medical center. He cleaned patient rooms and clinical areas. He started to think about a career in health care.

Running late to an environmental services staff meeting one day, he bumped into Nebraska Medicine executive Marty Carmody, who now lives in Michigan. Not long after their chance meeting, Carmody was at his daughter's youth soccer game and was impressed by how the referee diffused a potentially volatile situation. It was Abalo! Carmody approached him after the game -- Abalo worked at the med center, went to school, and now soccer games, too?

When Abalo applied for health professions programs at Clarkson College, Carmody wrote a letter of recommendation. Abalo eventually earned degrees in radiation technology and medical imaging. He later became certified in sterile processing.

He also was blessed with an American wife, Blythe, and they had an American son, Richmond. Then, Abalo became an American, too. He became a U.S. citizen in 2011.

And he enrolled in UNMC's clinical perfusion program. His long-term goal is to someday bring heart surgery (clinical perfusionists operate heart-lung machines during these surgeries) to Togo. Today, those who need heart surgery must have enough money to leave the country.

Currently, he's getting soccer balls and school supplies to the kids of his old hometown, all while juggling the responsibilities of work, family, and, oh, yes, another health professions degree.

"It has not been easy for me," or, he added, his wife. "But we are managing it."

His parents can't make his UNMC graduation. But his American family, his in-laws, will be there.

It is the end of one story. But the beginning of another. He is determined the children of Togo won't have to come to America to be successful. But, he is so happy that he has.


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Keith Deras
July 24, 2018 at 9:36 PM

Congratulations Ralph. A long journey that I will never know. I was born in America to a hard working father and mother. My father always said that good luck follows hard work. God Bless you and your family.

Todd Betts
May 05, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Determination and commitment are two words that come to mind when I think of Ralph. I couldn’t be more proud of what he has already accomplished and I look forward to witnessing the new trails he will be blazing as a result of his new Master’s in Perfusion Science. Congratulations, Ralph!

May 04, 2018 at 6:55 PM

Amazing. Well done man. Congrat

Frank Plummer
May 04, 2018 at 3:25 PM

Great story. Congratulations Mr Abalo.

Elias Gadegbe
May 04, 2018 at 1:55 PM

Hummm....tears falling off my eyes, son. You made it. Everything is possible. Just know who you are and know where you are going. God bless!

Greg Karst
May 04, 2018 at 10:49 AM

Ralph, your story is incredibly inspirational. Congratulations on earning your Clinical Perfusion degree, and best wishes to you and your family as you embark on this next stage of your already very successful career.

Selom Agbobli
May 04, 2018 at 10:46 AM

Congrats brother. I can proudly said I witnessed your unmc' s journey. All the best in your new career. Well deserved

Hermann Alikpokou
May 04, 2018 at 10:31 AM

Nice story. Congrats on your achievement!

Kim Corum
May 04, 2018 at 10:18 AM

Congratulations! What a wonderful and inspiring story!

Marjorie Reynolds
May 04, 2018 at 10:06 AM

Wonderful story about your journey in life. Your determination/drive has helped you in achieving your goals. Next chapter ahead. Proud to have you as part of our family.

Edoh Gbetanou
May 04, 2018 at 9:50 AM

Congratulations Bro, you made it and we are proud of you...

Evelyn Reinthaler
May 04, 2018 at 9:40 AM

Congratulations! It is an honor to have helped you along your journey. Hopefully, we will continue to see you at the Library.

May 04, 2018 at 9:24 AM

Wow bro, I am not surprised. That's what you're. No matter how difficult it was. You become an ample for us. May God protect you and poured out his blessing upon your family. Congratulations!!!

Jerrie Dayton
May 04, 2018 at 9:19 AM

Many congratulations. You have worked very hard and your determination and drive is inspiring. I am so happy to hear of your successes and contributions. What a great story.

Peggy Moore - E-Learning
May 04, 2018 at 8:58 AM

Congratulations Ralph! You are a positive person, your academic and life journey are inspiring to us all!

Kris Morrissey
May 04, 2018 at 8:34 AM

This is wonderful. Congratulations, Ralph!