WP Doctoral Student Amanosi Agbugui Continues to Battle Disease Years After Being Cured

Amanosi Agbugui, PsyD ’26

William Paterson University’s Amanosi Agbugui, PsyD ’26 was cured of a life-altering genetic condition 13 years ago. Now, armed with both a desire to give back and doctoral studies in clinical psychology, she is on a mission to support current “warriors” and their families.

Agbugui was born with sickle cell anemia, an inherited disease that causes red blood cells to become misshapen and break down. Patients are left with a shortage of healthy red blood cells, leading to infections and reduced oxygen flow. The misshapen cells can also block blood flow, known as sickle cell crisis, which causes debilitating pain. 

Psychology was as integral as physiology in her journey, she says. As a result, her personal experiences and professional interests led her to the doctor of psychology program (PsyD) in clinical psychology at William Paterson University.

While at WP, she has grown increasingly interested in research and now envisions a professional future that involves not only clinical psychology but also the integration of neuropsychology among patients facing sickle cell disease or other medical conditions.


Making an impact

“I took medication daily; I was in the hospital once per month for a blood transfusion—every month; I missed school for appointments, and I was pulled out of my sports so I wouldn’t be overworked or over-exerted,” Agbugui explains.

At age 13, with her 11-year-old brother as her donor, she underwent a successful bone marrow transplant—currently one of the known cures for sickle cell anemia. Now age 26, though Agbugui is cured, her advocacy for sickle cell is far from over.

“The aspect of community—the village—is what carried me through,” she says. “When I tell this story, I say ‘we’ a lot.”

To give thanks, Agbugui gives back.

In 2016, she founded Amanosi’s Annual 5k Victory Walk in her hometown of Langhorne, Pennsylvania to raise awareness about sickle cell disease and funds for the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia—where she was cured. The annual event has attracted participants beyond Pennsylvania and has even garnered attention from overseas. Agbugui is happily planning her ninth walk, scheduled to take place on July 27th.

Agbugui also serves as an intern for the Sickle Cell Mental Health and Wellness Initiative, reaching sickle cell patients and survivors on a national level. “We share our experiences and equip other warriors with tools for their coping of sickle cell crisis and their overall wellbeing,” she explains. “Alongside doctors, clinicians and advocates, I also co-facilitate weekly sessions on various mental health topics such as mindfulness strategies, survivor’s guilt, reflection, and trauma.”

 “My experience gave me a heightened awareness of the trauma, the self-identity development, and the depression and anxiety that goes along in tandem with a patient’s medical conditions,” she continues. “Especially the identity piece; so much of your identity is centered around being a patient of that medical condition.” Being cured requires patients to then reformulate their identity, she adds, noting the psychological complexities throughout.

Agbugui was attracted to WP’s doctoral program in clinical psychology (PsyD) because of the research labs directed by faculty, the smaller class sizes, and the competitiveness of the clinical practicums offered. She splits her time between Pennsylvania and New Jersey to attend classes. For her clinical practicum, Agbugui is currently a doctoral extern at her beloved Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she works on the patient assessment side of a study examining autism rates amongst siblings.

She’s loved the experience. It has only strengthened her desire to work with children, adolescents, and their families.

 “Overall, my goal is to contribute to the field of clinical psychology with clinical or research work and make an impact on the lives of the families I interact with,” she says.

--To learn more about Agbugui’s walk, follow @amanosi5kwalk on Instagram or email amanosi5kwalk@gmail.com