Growing up in Nigeria, Rey Okoene’s mother — a midwife — would provide antepartum care for mothers without access to health care and deliver babies in their family home to give back to the community. “After experiencing so many births, I loved to witness these families express profound gratitude to ‘matron’ — as [my mother] was fondly called,” says Okoene. “I fell in love with nursing, the privileges we have at those pristine moments, and the important roles we play in the life of our patients and families.”
Earning her degree from the traditional BSN program, Okoene has earned high academic honors in her time at the School of Nursing. Even with facing the challenges of navigating the difficult tasks of nursing school, clinicals, raising a young daughter, and immigrating to a new country, she has achieved a high level of academic performance throughout her undergraduate career, being named to the Dean’s List multiple times. Known by her peers as someone who epitomizes strength, compassion, and resilience, she has also spent time volunteering for COVID-19 and flu vaccination clinics and has participated in student advisory groups while at UW–Madison.
Her BSN marks her second degree, having earned a previous degree in geology.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Okoene now leads a not-for-profit Christian Fellowship, whose work in women’s health education and outreach has impacted more than 120 pregnant women, new mothers and babies, and a few communities in Lagos, Nigeria. She has supported new mothers through teaching breastfeeding techniques, educating others about signs of postpartum depression, offering nutrition support, as well as pregnancy and wellness education. In 2021 alone, she helped welcome 21 babies into the world.
In addition, she collaborates with communities and health professionals in Nigeria, creating outreach efforts for underserved communities. “I am very passionate about health education, health promotion, and health prevention through teaching these populations simple and easily accessible techniques.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that I have found my purpose,” she says. “My experiences as a mom and the outstanding education I have received in our great institution will always put me ahead in my practice as a well-rounded women’s health nurse.”
Okoene was awarded the pin donated by the School of Nursing’s Board of Visitors (BOV), a group of leaders from the health care and business communities who provide strategic guidance to the school. The pin donated by the organization recognizes a student’s leadership and strategic guidance, and Okoene is an outstanding example of both.
She is thankful for the recognition, saying, “I am deeply honored by this gesture. This pin will always serve as a succinct reminder to continue to rise above challenges on those good and not so great days.”