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Wednesday July 26, 2017

Rutgers Nursing Student Overcomes Physical Challenge to Help Others

Rutgers Nursing Student Overcomes Physical Challenge to Help Others

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Herman Abuchowski, born without a left foot, considers career in pediatric care and rehabilitation

Headshot of Herman Abuchowski
Photo: Courtesy of Herman Abuchowski
After earning a bachelor's and two master's degrees, Herman Abuchowski determined he wanted to become a nurse, and perhaps focus on pediatric care and rehabilitation.

‘For me, it’s all about accepting what your passion is and going for it. Getting over my own lack of self-confidence has allowed me to disregard any societal perceptions. All I’m interested in is knowing I will be helping people. I can’t wait to get started.’
 
– Herman Abuchowski

Hitting his jumps and spins in martial arts class or completing a triathlon exhilarates Herman Abuchowski. In fact, he’s never let being born without a left foot hold him back.

Abuchowski finds physical activity inspiring and anticipates it will help him significantly in the nursing career he will launch next year.

“I want to spend my time helping patients cope when they don’t have a mechanism to do so,” says Abuchowski, 28. “I had a negative image of myself but learned how to cope and became comfortable with myself.”

This month he will complete the 14-month, accelerated bachelor of science program at Rutgers School of Nursing, and he envisions himself one day as a pediatric care and rehabilitation nurse.

Growing up in Hunterdon County, being different bothered him. But with the support of his parents he worked hard to turn his deficit into an asset. He became an Eagle Scout. He fenced for Voorhees High School. At 21, the day after he tried on a new running prosthetic, he ran a 13-mile half-marathon in 2 hours, 40 minutes. He completed a triathlon.

Enhancing his physical fitness helped build the confidence and self-esteem he later realized he lacked during high school. In addition to the triathlon, he has completed several 5K races and has set a goal to run a full marathon. He is now pursuing a red sash in wushu, the Chinese martial art also commonly referred to as kung fu, which has become his exercise passion.

“I don’t let the prosthetic hold me back,” he says. “I’m confident that I can do all the jumps and spins I need to do.”

Abuchowski also credits his experience at Rutgers’ Cook College (now the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences), where he earned his undergraduate degree in 2009, as being key to learning how to cope. He developed strong bonds with roommates and other friends that strengthened his self-esteem and a passion for anthropology that sparked his interest into how culture and society affect the perception of health and illness.

Image of Herman Abuchowski practicing martial arts jump
Photo: Courtesy of Herman Abuchowski
Abuchowski is pursuing a red sash in the martial art of wushu, also known as kung fu, his exercise passion.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in environmental policy, institutions and behavior, Abuchowski earned dual master’s degrees in applied anthropology and public health in 2012 at the University of North Texas. Much of his research focused on understanding self-perception in adversity and the influences our physical environment and physical fitness have on mental health.

“We all experience life differently,” he says. “Understanding the world as others interpret it allows you to understand who people are.”

While living in Texas, Abuchowski’s interest in helping youngsters also deepened. He volunteered at Groundwork Dallas to assist at-risk, urban youth prepare for environmental careers, eventually becoming program and operations manager and implementing new teaching methods to strengthen their education.

Abuchowski, whose younger sister also plans to become a nurse, is eagerly anticipating beginning his professional career in a nurse residency program in several months. His excitement was boosted by what he and his colleagues achieved in their recent student-faculty service trip to the Dominican Republic, where they went door-to-door to treat infections and other conditions. “I know service trips are something I will continue to do in the future,” he says.

Abuchowski says that his hesitation before choosing a career allowed him to be certain he has chosen a field where he could have a significant impact.

“For me, it’s all about accepting what your passion is and going for it,” he says. “Getting over my own lack of self-confidence has allowed me to disregard any societal perceptions. All I’m interested in is knowing I will be helping people. I can’t wait to get started.”


Media contact: Jeff Tolvin, 973-972-4501, cell: 908-229-3475, or jeff.tolvin@rutgers.edu

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