Since the day I decided to become a medical doctor, I knew that the field of medicine would not limit me. Too often, we’re told to practice medicine and do nothing else. We’re not encouraged to dream big. Well, I reject that! I’m more than a doctor.
Yesterday I began a long-awaited project. For years, I’ve dreamt of directing/producing a feature length documentary. Well, that dream is finally coming to fruition. We officially began the filming of Rise Up! The Story of Black Men In White Coats.
In 2013, when I heard that the number of black men applying to medical school was decreasing, I knew I had to do something about it. The only idea I had was to make a short video and post it on YouTube. I got my brother, Dr. Daniel, and a medical student buddy, and asked them to join me in the video. That was the start of it all.
Six years later, we’re filming a feature length documentary. It’s been tough road to get here, but it’s so worth it. I’m very happy we didn’t listen to those people trying to put us in boxes. Now I can say that I’m more than a doctor…I’m also a film director!
1. Tell us about yourself. My name is Nicole, and I am 25 years old. I studied operations research and financial engineering at Princeton University. I am currently working on my masters in biostatistics from Brown University and will be graduating in June 2020. I am also a dual Dominican-American citizen and whatever specialty I end up choosing, I intend to focus on providing high quality care to the underserved, Spanish-speaking, immigrant population.
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher in high school was Mr. Winchester. He was my math teacher at the small arts school I attended, and I loved how engaging of a lecturer he was. He would utilize SAT vocabulary words in his math classes to help prepare us for the SAT and would exude so much passion and joy in everything he did. I greatly appreciated how he integrated both English and math in his class, and he instilled a great sense of respect in us all by having a very clear structure and order to his class. He is definitely unforgettable and inculcated in me a love of math and language. In addition, he was a phenomenal tap dancer!
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? It became clear to me that I wanted to become a doctor when I was doing a fellowship at an education non-profit in the Dominican Republic. I realized that being of service was something deeply meaningful to me to the point where I could no longer envision myself in a data analyst role as was previously planned. Although I would not choose to work in the education world permanently, I saw firsthand the need many communities have for medical professionals, and as I got to know families and referred them to other nonprofits, I wished that I could be of direct service to them instead of a liason. My interest was reaffirmed as I did volunteer work in hospitals and clinics when I started my masters degree at Brown. I started by interpreting at Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and Clínica Esperanza. I had the privilege to engage with a variety of providers and people, and I felt immense joy to be able to be of direct service to people. I enjoyed the hospital environment, the new cases each day, and most importantly, I enjoyed connecting with the patients I met. I currently work at Rhode Island Free Clinic as both a scribe and an interpreter, and I like being of service to low income, minority communities in particular. Looking back on my path from arts school to engineering to future doctor, I can’t say that I am surprised although from an outsider’s perspective my route may seem quite indirect. As a child I would read about Ben Carson, watch Discovery Health, and read the National Geographic books on the brain and body. It makes sense that I would eventually want to become a doctor even though that idea wasn’t fully fleshed out in my head during undergrad.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in?I am open-minded about my specialty. I have seen so many in action, but I think I want my focus to either be on primary care or on making the typically inaccessible accessible. For me this could be choosing dermatology to treat common skin conditions that are often left untreated in populations that largely don’t have insurance or plastic surgery to then focus on providing reconstruction for patients who may not be able to afford it.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? By far the coolest experience I have had is interpreting at the hospital. I had the privilege to work with so many different doctors across many different specialties from cardiology to psychiatry to ENT to oncology. This has given me the opportunity to learn what the day-to-day life is like for doctors of different specialties and to get a general sense of the profession as a whole. In addition, I have been able to interact with and meet many different people from all walks of life, and it has been very humbling to hear their stories and to be of service to some truly incredible people.
6. What is your favorite book? The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is by far my favorite book. This book had an impact on me as I reflect on what mental health means to communities of color and what surviving sexual assault means as a woman of color. This book touched on some very deep topics that I think are critical as we think about how we can better support the people in our communities. In addition, the author Junot Diaz is Dominican and it felt great to be able to read the book in Spanish with typical Dominican slang and to feel like the Dominican community has a voice in contemporary literature. 7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.I went to an arts school where I played violin. I like to do ballet. I like to boil ginger root and cinnamon to make tea. I tutor on a sliding scale so that people of all communities have access to academic support.
8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?I would probably be an interpreter! I would definitely stay in a hospital environment. I need to be in a field that is fast moving, service oriented, and where I interact with people.
9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? My biggest obstacle has been navigating college as a first generation, low income student. I came to Princeton from an arts school and jumped into engineering, which was very different from my highschool experience. I was far from home and really struggled getting my footing in a world that seemed so foreign to me. This feeling continues as I follow the pre-med track since I don’t know any doctors or anybody that can provide advice in navigating the application process. However, comparing how I’m approaching the medical school application process to how I approached Princeton, I can see how much I’ve grown. I’m less hesitant to reach out, and the mistakes I made in undergrad were valuable teaching moments for how to handle the unknown.
10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine?I like the representation it gives. It is wonderful to see doctors of color out there and to know I’m not alone in going through this process. In addition, Diverse Medicine provides a community where you can get relevant advice and guidance, which is invaluable as the application process is grueling and unforgiving. The platform provides a built in support network for those who might not have one, and I think the role it provides is crucial to support more future doctors of color on their journey.
Who is in your corner? Your circle? Your round? Your squad?
Too many premeds and med students try to go at this all on their own. Year after year, I hear stories from students struggling in school and now trying to find a way to improve their chances at getting into medical school or residency. I personally don’t believe you are ever too late to fix a problem but I just wish more students would seek help from the get-go. A solid way of doing this is by having a mentor, adviser and YOUR SQUAD.
As I discussed in a previous blog, you are 95% more likely to accomplish a goal if you have accountability partners and meet with that person/people periodically to strategize. I don’t think you get that! I said… you are 95% more likely to accomplish a goal! This is where your squad comes in. There are two well-known squads I think have set great examples for URMs while tackling the medical journey. Let me share a little about them.
The Three Doctors
Many of you are familiar with their story from reading their books (The Pact) or watching their film. These 3 brothers come from my birthplace, Dirty Jersey (Newark, NJ). Dr. George Jenkins, Dr. Rameck Hunt, and Dr. Sampson Davis all grew up poor and fatherless. They met in high school and formed a pact with one another that they would all push each other through school all the way to becoming doctors. Their counselor at Seton Hall, Carla Dickson was very instrumental in their journey. She helped solidify the trio’s pact knowing that if one gave up, the other two would likely follow suit. These men have served as role models for so many, letting them know you can make it out of any situation but they exemplify the importance of forming a squad and solid mentorship.
The Pulse of Perseverance
Dr. Max Madhere, Dr. Pierre Johnson and Dr. Joe Semien are another trio with a remarkable story that also may never have come to fruition without the formation of their squad. They showed true perseverance by overcoming extremely tough childhood obstacles before meeting up at Xavier University as premeds. This is where the brotherhood formed. They pushed each other through classes and MCAT struggles, making sure that no man was left behind. That is solid! They now inspire many students by breaking down stereotypes, providing scholarships and speaking. For those of you in the Chicago area, look out for our 2020 Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit where Dr. Pierre Johnson will join us to share his story.
So, who should be in your squad? Ideally, two or three peers who are highly motivated, supportive, trustworthy, serious, students who can and will push you. You should all get along and be able to relate to one another. Jealousy should be rooted out immediately and you should be able to share true feelings with one another. It’s an “all for one” mentality; so even when one has “made it” they’ll be the biggest cheerleader for their partners lagging behind. Every woman or man brings their unique traits to the table. You’ve got to be real with each other and if one isn’t pulling their weight or constantly bringing the team down you may have to eventually cut them loose before the plane crashes. If you feel it would help, you may even give your squad a name, logo, or wrist band to remind you of your team’s goal.
I hope you are all inspired by these two squads. Please share any other squads you know of.
1. Tell us about yourself. Hello! I’m a senior at the University of Arkansas majoring in Biology. I came to Arkansas as a child and have been here ever since! I like to binge watch Netflix, go to different coffee ships and go hiking often!
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher has to be my Bioethics professor Warren Herold. Professor Herold had the unusual rule of no phones and/or laptops out. That meant the 30 of us present were forced to listen to him, and honestly I ‘m so glad he did. Professor Herold taught bioethics in a way that was broadly applicable but very nuanced at the same time.
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? As a child, it was apparent to me the privileged life I lived as I visited my grandparents in their rural village in India. Every day I played with kids who came from mud and thatched houses. Kids my age worked in the farm and others went to the city as child laborers to support their family. One day, one of my friends didn’t meet me at the cricket field like we’d planned. On inquiry, we found out that he was bedridden with a fever and his parents couldn’t afford a doctor. There was no health center in the village. Hearing this, my parents and I rushed over. I saw them lay him down in the back of the mud house. Noticing his body shaking uncontrollably, my parents gave him some Tylenol to bring his fever down. Of course, as a child, I didn’t understand how the Tylenol brought the fever down but that instantly sparked my interest in medicine.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I want to be a primary care physician after medical school. Every trip to India, my grandfather would take me to his doctor friend that ran a primary health care clinic in a nearby rural town. It was that doctor who taught me how to use a stethoscope, allowed me to watch his diagnosis of patients and explained to me the art of medical practice. Watching the pain and suffering of children in rural villages and interaction with my grandpa’s doctor friend ignited my passion to be in medicine and to serve those communities that are underprivileged and underrepresented.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? My coolest experience in my pre-medical journey is definitely being able to 3-D print different objects! I currently with the Cardiovascular Biomechanics Lab on campus, and very frequently do I have to use SolidWorks and MATLAB to help design the equipment needed. So being able to design something and then just click a button to make it was so cool!
6. What is your favorite book? I’m a total geek so I don’t have just one favorite book, but I have to go cliché and say the Harry Potter series.
7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I was actually a “priest-in training” at one point in my life! I attended a religious and service oriented boarding school in India, and one time I was approached asking if I wanted to enter finish that program. Unfortunately, a year later I moved back to the U.S., but it was still an amazing spiritual experience.
8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
Definitely somewhere in the public health field. I was very involved in policy debate throughout high school and college and working the public health topic showed me the many gaps within the state’s and nation’s healthcare system. Being in public health would allow me to be a part of the change and allow me an inside perspective into the failures and success of public health policy.
9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
My biggest obstacle has honestly been myself. Being a pre-medical student is very hard and being surrounded by other pre-medical students who are doing so much better than you is even harder. There were many times I thought someone had to be super smart and perfect to be a “Pre-Med”, but I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. It’s my senior year now, and as I’ve been applying to medical schools, I’ve talked to so many other applicants who’re in similar situations. Everyone sees the perfect, ideal self they could be and that puts a lot of emotional and mental pressure on students. The only thing you can do is to calm yourself down, focus on the things that need to be done and find an amazing support group. For me it’s my best friends I’ve known in high school and in college. Without their support and my self-realization that I’m not in this alone, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the life of pre-med student.
10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine?
I like Diverse Medicine because it’s actually one of a kind. I don’t know of any other site or organization online that is actively there to support pre-medical students. Like literally students are able to connect with different MD’s, PhD’s and various students all over the country to share their experiences and get advice from people who know the actual process very well.
The world of medical education is competitive. No matter how much we try to shape a collaborative environment, from day 1 of the premed journey, we’re taught to compete to be the best. Get the highest grades, highest MCAT score, most shadowing, most publications….When you stop and think about it, that’s a pretty tough environment to be in. Today, on Thanksgiving 2019, I’d like to encourage all of us to take moment to be thankful.
I’m thankful for a lot of things, but today, I want to let you know how thankful I am for the DiverseMedicine.com community. You all have been a distant family to me for many years. I’ve watched so many of you start off as premeds, move into medical school, and now some are preparing to start residency. There are few things in life that bring me greater joy than watching your success.
Today, take a break. Step away from the hostile/competitive medical environment and simply say thank you.
1. Tell us about yourself. I’m a senior at Ohio University, majoring in Biological Sciences. In my free time I love to read, work-out and try new food. My main extracurriculars are my volunteer positions with a food bank/soup kitchen and hospice care. Due to growing up in similar conditions, I plan to serve underserved and disadvantaged communities as a physician, so volunteering in such settings is important to me. I am currently on the road to becoming the first physician in my family.
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher was my high school sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Repko. Her confidence in me as a student and as a person, allowed me to be more confident as well. She taught me how to articulate and defend my positions and she always said, “When I see you, I see a leader. I can’t wait until you see the same in yourself.”
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?Like many other pre-med students, diseases and illnesses experienced by myself and my family members highlighted the impact of medicine on our daily lives. More specifically, my father’s rare disorder piqued my interest in the field of medicine. As a middle-school student, I researched my father’s condition, and was fascinated by the intricacies of the human body that I had been introduced to; The newfound fascination coupled with my desire to improve the lives of others, especially through their health, showed me that medicine would be my career of choice.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am interested in specializing in pediatrics, family medicine, or psychiatry. These specialties are know for having significant continuity of care so the long-term relationship cultivated with each patient is why these three specialties resonate with me.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? The coolest experience I’ve had so far was working in a psychology research lab on a study that involved experiments with human participants (IRB approved of course). Working in a research setting that involved people was much different, and in my opinion, more rewarding, than the science bench research that other pre-meds around me have described. As a physician, I expect to regularly speak with patients and recognize medical issues, which is similar to the experimental exercises that I’ve done with research participants.
6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is Graceling. I love fantasy and dystopian genres, and this book is definitely the best that I’ve ever read.
7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. One interesting thing about me that most people don’t know is that I am bilingual; I speak English and Yoruba, a West African language.
8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? If I could not be a doctor, I would probably be a teacher. I enjoy the sharing of knowledge and assisting others in their understanding of topics.
9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? My biggest obstacle as a pre-med has been with experiencing imposter syndrome. Attending a PWI, and not seeing many people who looked like me on a similar path to medical school, made me question my abilities and sense of belonging. To combat these feelings, I searched for and found African-American mentors, who are in various stages of medical training. Their presence, advice and encouragement have made a world of a difference.
10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? The community feel of Diverse Medicine is my favorite aspect of the website. Every user willingly uplifts another and offers advice for the betterment of fellow users. It is a positive space that explores our journeys as pre-meds and prepares us for what lies ahead.
Endocrinology is the branch of medicine focused on managing hormonal imbalances and disorders. This includes conditions such as diabetes and metabolic disorders, thyroid disorders, adrenal disorders, gonadal disorders, pituitary disease and bone disorders. Our training consists of 4 years of medical school, 3 years of internal medicine (residency) and 2-3 years of an endocrinology fellowship.
I chose Endocrinology as my subspecialty because I consider it to be a practical field with a relatively good lifestyle. With the epidemic of diabetes and obesity (especially in the African American community), I wanted the opportunity to make an impact. I’ve always been intrigued by very mysterious diseases which once solved can often be attenuated by balancing ones hormones. I’d like you to follow me as I show you a typical day for me.
Rise and shine. I typically wake up at 6:30am to start my day. A few times a month I travel to a satellite clinic which is quite a distance so I’m up by 5:30am on those days.
Got to start the day right. I typically get in a 20-30 minute work-out at home. Morning exercise has a ton of benefits like boosting energy, lowering blood pressure, burning fat, building muscle, preventing diseases.
All done as the sun rises. Let’s get this day started!
Breakfast of champs. I pretty much eat a bowl steel-cut oatmeal and drink my full glass of water every morning while I chat with the wifey.
Kissed the wife and baby and I’m off to work.
I practice primarily in a smaller blue-collar, town (population 30,000) with median household average below the national. The population is predominantly Hispanic. I serve as the only Endocrinologist in this town and neighboring cities covering an area of 100 miles.
Pulling into my beautiful clinic. We have a total of 4 medical doctors (primary care and pain management) and 3 advance practice providers (nurse practitioners). Our neighbors next door are surgeons, primary care, and neurology. Most of us (including myself) are employed by the hospital in town.
My first patient is scheduled for 8:30am. I typically see anywhere from 16-25 patients a day.
Long morning. I saw a good mix of cases from diabetes, thyroid cancer, low testosterone and a pituitary tumor. What’s for lunch? I typically rush to the hospital cafeteria or pack my lunch and eat while I work on my clinic notes.
I have to clear my head after the long morning. I typically go for a 15 minute walk before clinic resumes at 1pm.
Done for the day (sort of). I typically still have some notes and tasks I will still need to complete at home. really need to tidy this place up. I’ll need to share a pretty mysterious case I encountered with you very soon. Stay tuned!
And… I’m out! Technically, I’m on call 24/7 for my patients and the local hospitals but it is very unusual to get an emergency Endocrine case. Occasionally, I will have a patient I need to visit at the local hospital.
My beautiful drive home.
By far the best part of my day!
Thanks for following me today. Feel free to message me or ask any questions if you are interested in learning more about the field of Endocrinology.
My name is Nichelle. I’m 22 years old and obtained my B.A in Psychology at Brooklyn College in May 2019. I love psychology and am working to become a Psychiatrist. Currently, I am at Texas Southern University completing my pre-med post-bac.
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
It’s so hard for me to decide on a favorite teacher because I’ve had so many, however, one that comes to mind is Mr. Lucas. He was my 10th-grade geometry teacher. Whenever I fooled around in class he’d always threaten to tell my dad because he knew my dad didn’t play those games and that’s just what I needed. Before I graduated high school, I remember telling him I was going to become a doctor and he called me “Dr. Solomon”. He was speaking it into existence for me and I’ll never forget him saying that.
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?
I first decided I wanted to become a doctor when I was in high school. My pediatrician Dr. Maria, who I’d been with since I was a baby was amazing. I could tell she really cared about me and my family and she inspired me to become a doctor. She told me about her and her daughter’s journey to becoming a doctor. She both encouraged and inspired me.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
As of now, I am interested in Psychiatry.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
My premedical journey has just begun but I’m excited about everything I expect to experience with all the new people I’ve been meeting. I recently got a new job in a hospital and I’m looking forward to learning a lot and meeting even more new people.
6. What is your favorite book?
My favorite book currently is Christine by Stephen King. I love horror novels and he’s one of my favorite authors. There’s also just something about a good mystery that keeps me on my toes.
7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.
I love Anthropology. I took my first Anthropology class to fulfill a core class requirement and then I fell in love. I actually decided to minor in Anthropology along with African-American studies.
8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
If I couldn’t be a doctor, I would become a Psychologist. My passion will always be in the world of psychology and helping others.
9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
My biggest obstacle as a premed student has been myself because I dealt with a lot of doubt in my abilities. I overcame these doubts by having an amazing and encouraging support system. When I was explaining some of my doubts, one of my mentors asked me, “Why wouldn’t you be able to become a doctor?”. Her question made me really think about it and realize that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to as long as I put in the work.
10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine?
What I like most about Diverse Medicine is that it connects Doctors, pre-med students, and medical students together. Networking is very important and beneficial. The mentoring aspect is also great especially for someone like me who doesn’t personally know any Doctors or medical students.
Day in and day out, we go about our business. We do all the little things we believe we’re supposed to be doing. Checking off all our little boxes just to make it to the next task. For most people, that’s an okay way of living, but for those who have a growth mindset, checking the boxes isn’t enough. People like us want to have a real I.M.P.A.C.T. I’ve created this acronym to help you evaluate your impact score. Go through each letter and see how you’re doing.
In today’s society, this has almost become a bad word. People always want you to hop on the bandwagon and do what the group is doing. When you veer a little off path, they’ll reign you in and say you’re getting out of line. That’s very unfortunate. The truth is, we need people to express their individualism for innovation to arise. We need leaders who are willing to go against the grain and challenge modern principles based on their own individual experiences.
One of the greatest ways to impact society for good is to teach those coming behind you to be successful in the areas of your expertise. Mentoring is critical for everyone to progress in life. A major factor in your impact score is whether or not your pouring into the next generation. You don’t want your good works to live and die with you. Leave a legacy via mentorship.
While it’s important to be an individual and leverage that to be avant garde, it’s important that you connect with others and participate. Keeping all your talents to yourself if a major waste of your potential. It’s important that you participate in initiative of others’ as well to help move their projects and ideas forward.
**Bonus P=Prayer. I believe in the power of praying for others. Never underestimate it!
Society progresses based on our understanding of the world we live in. Part of our goal as leaders in whatever field we’re in should be to advance it’s knowledge. This is the drive for academic excellence. Without knowledge, there is no progress.
CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO
To have a true impact, you have to be willing to challenge ideas and people. This plays strongly off ‘Individualism’ above. You need to stand your ground and ALWAYS act with integrity. That means truly valuing your values.
TELL YOUR STORY
This is one of the most underrated aspects of making a major impact. Once you’ve achieved something great, it’s important to tell your story so others can be inspired, motivated, and educated. There are countless people out there who would benefit from hearing how you’ve made it this far. Tell them!
What suggestions do you have for our community to help them have a greater impact? Please share.
Thanks to all the veterans out there including Afghanistan vet, Greg Proctor who has been an active member on Diverse Medicine supporting his peers and was even voted premed of the year 2018. Below are some of his recent pictures while deployed to West Africa. While there, he sought out opportunities to assist school-age children. He created various fundraisers generating up over $5,000 to support this community. Electronic equipment was purchased, school transportation repaired, power restored to the off-site office, teacher salaries were paid, and food was purchased. He has sought for further assistance to help this community. Check out Greg’s diversemedicine profile and his feature as premed of the year. Help wish him well on his premed journey and a happy Veteran’s Day.