SE: Serge Afeli Making Impact Abroad

Growing up in Ivory Coast, Serge Afeli was about 11 years old when he saw a man driving a BMW near his neighborhood. Caught by the sight, Afeli asked around town, ‘What does this guy do to be able to afford this car?’ The answer? He’s a pharmacist. 

“So, I said, ‘OK, I’ll be a pharmacist too, so when I grow up, I’ll be able to afford that,’” Afeli recalled, laughing at the story. 

Afeli, a former K-State basketball player (2005-07), did pursue a career in pharmacology, but he does not drive a BMW. His passion to join the field “also came from the fact that I really took school seriously and I was really interested in it,” Afeli said. 

Still, his connection to his heritage has been maintained. The 6-foot-8 native of Abidjan created “Afeli Pharmaceuticals,” a company dedicated to delivering high-quality medical services at affordable prices to African countries in need. 

“It’s a start up, so we’re still in the process of getting everything going, but we’re making good progress,” said Afeli, who started the company in 2013. “It was about the need to provide high-quality health care products for those who needed it most. I was fortunate enough to leave my home country, come here and have access to a great education at this great institution (K-State). It’s a way for me to give back, to create this pipeline where high quality products are sold at a very moderate price to those who need it the most.”

His company plans to build a 50,000 square foot, temperature-controlled facility to help further its mission. 

“My goal is to hopefully have it up and running by 2020,” Afeli said of the facility. “This distribution center will be a launching point for all our operations overseas. It will be a storage and packaging center for a variety of medical and pharmaceutical products made in the USA. We will receive and ship orders from this location in a timely and safe manner.”

Although Afeli may not be remembered as a key contributor for the Wildcats after averaging just more than one point per game, he is forever grateful for the opportunity because without it, he may never have reached his childhood dream.

“K-State is the school that gave me a chance to do something with my life. There’s life after basketball. I got a great education here, and then I carried this education to the next level,” he said while attending the Wildcats’ open scrimmage in early August. “That’s what I’m very thankful for because an opportunity like this, you don’t get it every day, so you have to make the most of it.”

Since graduating from K-State in 2007, Afeli received his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy. In 2013, he was named graduate student of the year in the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences. Also in 2013, he became an assistant professor of pharmacology at Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy, where he teaches and performs research.  

“We are training the next generation of pharmacists,” said Afeli, whose research specializes in understanding why chemotherapy fails with some patients, specifically those with bladder cancer. “So my day is divided between teaching courses and doing research at the university level.”

Afeli, married with one child, has published more than a handful of peer-reviewed articles in the field or urology. He was recently awarded a grant from the state of South Carolina to help pilot his study. 

“Everything,” he said, “is going well.”