Kwenda was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the U.S. at 9 years old to join her parents, who had come to the country years before. Her interest in urology stems in part from the kidney-related death of her beloved grandmother and guardian, Dorothy Chihombori, in Zimbabwe.
After transferring as an undergraduate from East Tennessee State University to the UF College of Medicine’s Medical Honors Program, Kwenda connected with some urologists who took her under their wing and showed her what the work is really like. She completed a urology rotation and took a year off from medical school to conduct bladder cancer immunology research with AUA grant funding and faculty mentors like Christopher E. Bayne, M.D., Paul L. Crispen, M.D., and Sergei Kusmartsev, Ph.D.
“It was a blast,” Kwenda said. “You realize the work you do in both the clinic and the lab is important because without the lab work, you can’t really push medicine forward.”
Working as an academic physician became her goal, she said. And when the match process came around, Kwenda knew she needed to go to a place like UF, where faculty were understanding and encouraging. An instance that stood out was when Li-Ming Su, M.D., FRCS, chair of the department of urology at UF, introduced her to a Black woman in the field at another university, so she could have someone to connect with.
“That spoke volumes to the support that was here for me,” Kwenda said. “At the end of the day, you have to go wherever is best for you, where you feel like you thrive and where you’d likely be supported. And as I kept thinking back, I kept coming to all these instances where I had felt supported or like people really wanted me to do well.
“I never had to contemplate whether I belong here at this program. I think that’s part of the reason why UF is a great place,” she said.