Behind the Dores: Jenn Edobi

Jenn Edobi is one of the fastest women ever to grace the Vanderbilt campus, ranking among the school’s all-time leaders in the 200 and 400 meters. She’s also one of the smartest and hardest working, competing as an elite SEC track and field athlete while earning a masters degree and applying to medical school.

Freshman year feels like it was just yesterday. Now, I’m the oldest one on my team, almost done with grad school, almost done with collegiate track and Vanderbilt. I can’t believe it’s here.

It’s exciting to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished and all the friends and memories I’ve made. I’m honored that I’ve gotten to spend five years here. It has been fun.

I’m a lot more social, a lot more open, a lot more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I talk to more people, my community has grown, and all of that has made me a better person.

Athletically, I’ve grown for sure. I’ve broken records I didn’t know I was capable of breaking with the help of my teammates and coaches. I’m really proud of that.

Academically, I’m on the pre-med track while running track and applying to med school. All these things I didn’t know I was capable of doing. Vanderbilt has definitely helped me get out of my comfort zone.

Being among Vanderbilt’s all-time top two runners for the 400 meters and the 200 and 4×200 and 4×400 relays, it’s pretty amazing. I’ve dropped about 2.5 seconds in my 400-meter time. I’ve dropped about a second and a half in my 200-meter time.

Talent is just not enough. Working hard is not enough. When the time comes, you just have to know you’re ready and be confident you’ve done what you need to do in order to run a certain time. Once that turns on in your mind, your body does amazing things.

Even when I ran my personal records, I never thought on that day that I’d accomplish that.

Extraordinary things happen on the most ordinary days. You never know what could happen, so you just have to be open to it.

I’m always nervous before a race, but one thing that calms me down is that I remind myself I’m not alone. When I think of running, it’s a way of worship. God is running with me. So, when I run, there’s nothing to be scared of, because I’m not alone.

Just turn the fears off, turn the anxiety off, and just know you’re running for His glory. Whatever happens, you’ve already won because God is right next to you.

I’m from Nigeria, and I used to go there every year with my dad. He’s a nurse so he would open up a clinic in our home village and help pass out over-the-counter medications, check for kidney stones in people, check their blood pressure. I would do that with him. As time went on, I just realized as a doctor I could so much more. As a nurse, there’s only so much he can do.

I realized it could be my ministry and I could expand it. We are meant to help one another.

My mom is a nurse as well. I’ll be the first medical doctor in my family. I’m claiming it.

In undergrad, I majored in Medicine, Health and Society, and my masters is also in that field. I’m researching health disparities and obesity in African-American women. What are the contributors to why these health disparities exist? Things like diet, socioeconomic status, and cultural attitudes and perspectives. I realize that race and socioeconomic status work hand in hand. You can’t take one out of the other.

Even though race is a social construct of man, its effects are real.

My goal is to work here but also set up nonprofit organizations in my hometown in Nigeria that distribute information and medical supplies to underserved communities.

It’s so different here in Nashville from New Jersey. I was a homebody when I was younger. I was surrounded by people I knew in the Jersey bubble. Moving to Nashville, where I knew no one, and being in one of the strongest athletic conferences in the nation and studying at Vanderbilt, it was a culture shock.

Adjusting to it made me a much more competent and much wise person, and I think I needed that. When you’re so comfortable, you just stay where you’re at. Coming here forced me to grow a network of people and ask for help, to test the grounds and see what I can do. I needed to be away from the things I thought I needed.

I like trying out the food here and the clothing shops on 21st Ave. When I’m walking home after practice, I stop in those stores.

I think my friends would say I’m a motivational encourager. I have a way with words, empathizing with people and encouraging them. I don’t talk much, but when it comes to encouraging people, I can do it. I want people to do well. I’m the person people come to when something is not going so right.

When I let my hair down, sometimes I binge on Netflix shows, or I binge on burgers and fries. That’s why I try not to even start. If do start, I can’t stop.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss