2018 Tillman Scholar

Apollo Kabukuru

University of Washington

“I want my medical research to empower people to continue to thrive well into old age.”

Apollo was born in Uganda under the rule of the dictator Idi Amin. Persecuted by the government, he and his family sought and received political asylum from the United States, narrowly escaping with their lives.

Immigrating at the age of nine, Apollo quickly learned English and embraced life as an American. Eight years later, he enlisted in the Navy as a hospital corpsman to serve the country that had given his family a second chance. As a medic, he found great fulfillment in helping the wounded, the sick and those in need.

While working full time in the Navy, he finished his bachelor’s degree and became a U.S. citizen. He received an officer’s commission in 2003, attending flight school to become a naval flight officer. While leading crews on the P-3 Orion aircraft, he flew antiterrorism, anti-submarine and reconnaissance missions in the Pacific and beyond.

Later, he served as a combat department tactical actions officer onboard the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, and also trained African navies to fight piracy and poaching in their waters.

Retiring after 20 years of service, Apollo decided he wanted to get back to healing patients – this time as a doctor.

Now in his second year of medical school, Apollo wants to focus on curing age-related diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. He hopes to work as part of a team to develop innovative new treatments, while using his experience as a veteran and an immigrant to help reach patients who sometimes fall through the cracks.