Super Star Blogs!

A Black Man ALMOST in a White Coat

I was the only black male in a class of 200 medical students. Although this was not a daily thought in my head, I was reminded of it quite often. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 604 out of the 21,614 students who matriculated to medical school were black males. That is a whopping 3%. By now, many have also heard the alarming statistics that there were fewer black males in medical school in 2014 than in 1978. With the low numbers of black males in medical school, I know my experiences are echoed around the country by other black male medical students. I thought I’d share with you a few experiences and lessons learned during my medical school journey as a black man almost in a white.

1. The pressure is real

Med school is tough on its own but at times it can feel like the weight of a whole community is on your back. It is as though you are the delegate who will speak on behalf of “the brothers”, show everyone the latest dance moves, and be center stage for the promo photo shoots. You really shouldn’t have to feel this way but in certain situations it is tough not to and it may be necessary to do so at times. There are topics in a lecture for instance that only you can truly identify with or maybe you completely disagree with. Sometimes distasteful remarks are made daring you to speak up. Who else will do it? The pressure to excel can be intensified by black patients and hospital employees who are rooting for you. You feel you can’t let them down. You can’t let your friends, your community, and your family down. I highly recommend finding a mentor that can identify with you. This will help tremendously in dealing with this pressure.  

2. You can’t escape racism

I’ve come to realize that a number of other black male doctors use the same tactics I do while driving. I’m an extremely safe driver but a couple of bad run-ins with the police (see here) have taught me valuable lessons. After being laughed at on three separate occasions by police officers when asked what I do for a living, I now drive either with a white coat hanging on my passenger seat or my hospital ID badge clipped on my shirt. We all judge and have our own biases but society has a way of compartmentalizing us into groups and I would argue that the quickest tool we use to do this is race. I still recall a med school friend asking me if I was scared walking home after midnight by myself after a long day of studying at the library. I told her yes, but not out of fear of being attacked but fear that I could be accused of something I didn’t do. She found this very strange and it really opened my eyes at the different worlds we must live in. The short white coat you wear as a med student is a powerful tool that brings a sense of respect and credibility but as soon as it comes off, it’s back to reality. At times, the white coat failed to protect me like the day I went to a nursing home and was called the N word over and over by a patient stating he doesn’t talk to n—-s. It was just one of those cases you dust off, pray for the guy and keep being the best provider you can be.

I learned quickly after an incident that this coat can serve multiple roles.

3. You must overcome imposter syndrome

I believe most medical students face the imposter syndrome but I suspect it is more prevalent in those who stick out of the crowd the most. This may be because you have a disability, come from a small school, have an accent, or look different from others. It is hard not to doubt your abilities and question the reason why you were accepted or received a reward. Sometimes, others around you make comments making matters worse. Society has a way of tapping you on the shoulders and telling you you do not fit in here. Check out my previous blog on imposter syndrome and how to defeat it.

4. Be a unique advocate

As a medical student, your clinical years will bring up a lot of ethical dilemmas. There may be situations where you notice a patient being mistreated or neglected due to his or her race, ethnicity, or gender. There also may be times were there is a cultural barrier you might be able to step in and educate the medical team on. I recall during my rotations as a third year student when I basically had to interpret for a patient. Mind you, I am monolingual. I somehow found myself interpreting for a black gentleman who spoke Ebonics and our resident who was an Indian woman with a thick accent. It irked me watching their first encounter and listening to the resident present his story inaccurately so the next day I stepped in. This in itself exemplifies the beauty of diversity in the healthcare field. We can all advocate for those who we relate with.

5. Learn, learn, learn

There is so much knowledge to soak in as a medical student. You are there to learn about the art of healing but at the same time so many life lessons are gathered on the journey. You will learn how to operate in an environment that you are not accustomed to. As a minority student working hard to impress the attending physician you often learn to code switch. There are general conversations your peers have that you may not be accustomed to having but in order to assimilate and not look disinterested, you join in. Your choices will be to either isolate yourself or learn to appreciate the different perspectives and embrace them wholeheartedly. I believe the learning any minority experiences will be unique from the majority population and it is important that we hear all voices in order to optimize the medical training experience and healthcare as a whole.

Medical school was challenging, yet it was an amazing and rewarding experience. My training has allowed me to become an excellent physician while my experience as the only black male in a class of 200 taught me resilience, confidence, cultural competence, advocacy, and purpose. I can easily say that I am a better physician through this experience and I hope it shows in the care I provide for my patients.

Congratulations to Jennifer!  Student of the Week!

1.Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello everyone! My name is Jennifer Odoi and I am a rising Junior at Tulane University, majoring in Public Health and minoring in International Development. I was born in London, England but grew up in Dallas, Texas. I just finished up an internship with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), where I did research on the relationship between the menstrual cycle and smoking cessation at the University of Arizona. During my free time, I enjoy visiting new restaurants, playing the piano, and dancing (albeit very badly)!

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher growing up was my AP English Teacher. During my junior year of high school, I completed an independent study project on the challenges of global health. My passion for this topic led me to create a fundraiser for the Fistula Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that donates money to women in low-resource countries who are suffering from obstetric fistula. (If you are interested in learning more, visit https://www.fistulafoundation.org/!) My teacher supported me throughout the entire process, despite the administrative pushback that I received for choosing such a large cause. Although she had hundreds of students, my teacher took the time to help me implement and execute my fundraiser. Her encouragement and belief in me taught me the importance of fighting for causes that you are passionate about, even if others do not understand your vision.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? was always interested in medicine when I was younger; however, I didn’t really solidify my desire to become a doctor until I became an emergency medical technician. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to serve my university and the surrounding New Orleans community through administering much-needed patient-care.

My EMT experience has given me a taste of medicine, and I am now very fascinated by the complexities of the human body. After every EMS call that I take, I always try to craft my very own differential diagnosis. I often wish I could follow up with our patients to find out the causes of their symptoms.

One of the most important aspects of being an EMT is being able to provide comfort to individuals during very vulnerable and intimate points of their lives. EMTs serve as an advocate for their patients when they are not able to advocate for themselves. I hope to be able to take my experience as an EMT to become an empathetic doctor who strives to establish trust and rapport with their patients.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Right now, I am interested in family medicine and I hope to have the opportunity to work with underserved communities. After my research with opioid use and my internship with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, I hope to specialize in Addiction Medicine to serve minorities who often don’t have access to substance abuse treatment.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? The summer after my freshman year, I participated in the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) at UT Health Science Center at Houston. Freshman year had really taken a hit on my confidence, and I felt that becoming a doctor was unattainable. SHPEP confirmed my desire to be a physician, and for that, I am eternally grateful! This program included participation in simulation labs, academic enrichment in pre-medical prerequisites courses, career development, and clinical exposure. Seeing physicians and medical students who looked like me, and went through the same struggles as me was very reassuring. I recommend this program for any incoming freshman and sophomores, because I truly believe it has shaped my focus and drive for the medical field.

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, This book is especially powerful, as it highlights the harsh realities of being a black body in the United States. Coates shares personal and historical experiences to expose the intricate layers of systematic racism that plague African-Americans across the country. I found this book painfully thought-provoking and highly recommend it!

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. have been cast as a background extra in television shows and movies! The last film I was a background extra in is Queen and Slim, which will be released in late November. I really appreciate the art of film-making and find it super intriguing to have a behind the scenes perspective!

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? My childhood is characterized by the rich aroma of jollof rice and the vibrant gold and black hues that adorned my mother’s kente cloth. My mother is a talented Ghanian cook who loves to tell stories of her past through her dishes. If I couldn’t be a doctor, I would open up a Ghanian fusion restaurant, where I would ATTEMPT to emulate my mother’s craft while sharing my culture with others!

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? do not have any physicians in my family, and it has been difficult to navigate the process on my own. I have felt immense self-doubt during the process and have been very close to giving up my dream of becoming a doctor. Interestingly enough, I found out that I was not alone! A few of my closest friends and I started a chapter of a pre-medical fraternity at our university to provide fellowship and encouragement for students who felt lost in their pre-med journey. I have found great comfort in having advisors and friends who understand what you are going through and are willing to support you in all aspects of life!

10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? There is an obvious need for minorities in medicine. I truly believe that Diverse Medicine is working to change the paradigm by equipping underrepresented populations with the resources to succeed, and matriculate into medical school. Being a member of Diverse Medicine feels like belonging to a community, and it is very comforting to know that there are people rooting for your success!

Get off “Selfie” Mode

Take out your phone and put on your camera. Is it on “selfie” mode? I’m willing to bet that a good amount of readers will answer that question with an affirmative. That’s a problem! My goal in this short piece is to convince you to get your camera, and your life, off “selfie” mode. This is going to be a rough one, and many people won’t enjoy reading it, but we’re living in a day and age that it’s important to hear.

As current and future healthcare practitioners we are called to care for others. Right or wrong, it has become our duty to put the needs of those ailing above our personal wants. We’re in a field servitude and that means being attentive to other people. Over the past few years, I have grown increasingly concerned about the vanity of society and particularly how it is taking a hold on the medical community. I don’t believe this to be a healthy thing.

Recent studies have suggested that social networking sites are associated with psychiatric conditions such as depression. The idea on these platforms has seemed to morph from their original intent of keeping friends and family updated, and into self-glorification measured by likes and shares. I am convinced that this leads to a vicious cycle which culminates in extreme vanity that may hinder an individual’s ability to truly care for others.

As healthcare professionals, let’s not lose that part of us that focuses deeply on the needs of others. Now, in no way shape or form am I saying person can’t love themselves and take selfies to express that. What I am saying is our focus should be on others more than on ourselves. This is a foundational principle of our field and when we become more concerned about our likes than our notes…we’ve got a problem.

If you’re among those who had their camera on “selfie” mode, my challenge to you today is to flip it back around. Keep it that way for a full week and take some lovely pics of your friends without you in them. I’m willing to bet it’ll make you feel really good!

Congratulations to Oumou!  Student of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Hello everyone! My name is Oumou Fofana and I’m going to be a senior biochemistry major at the Ohio State University. I am Guinean-American and the oldest of five children. I was born in Brooklyn, New York but lived in Columbus for most of my life. I tend to be pretty introverted and shy but will use my voice when I think it’s most needed. Some things that I am involved with include being a president for a student organization called Ladies of Leadership, which is a mentoring program for women of color, a peer leader for a general chemistry course, and a research assistant for the microbiology department at OSU. In my free time, I like to read and watch mysteries on ABCs 20/20

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?My favorite teacher in college would have to be my biochemistry professor, Dr. Ottesen. She was the first female professor I had in a STEM class and was really inspiring to me. During her office hours, we would talk about imposter syndrome and the difference between an intelligent person and a hardworker. She really motivated me to continue with my major and told me that instead of looking at biochemistry as a barrier, I should look at it as the playground that it is.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? It’s really hard to determine when I decided I wanted to be a physician but I think it started when my mother, who was pregnant at the time, got into a severe car accident. Although I was really young during that time, that incident sparked in interest in me for a career in the healthcare field. When I got a bit older, I did more research on different professions and medicine just stuck out to me. In college, I joined MAPS and that gave me the chance to meet medical students and physicians to determine if medicine was something that I wanted to do. I love how there are many specialties in medicine and how you can always learn more as a physician.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Growing up, I always thought that I would want to be a gynecologist because I was interested in working with women and newborns. But after shadowing an internal hospitalist, I would like to consider that specialty as well because you can interact with a variety of patients who have different diseases and disorders. My interest might change when I get to medical school and I’m open for that.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?So this experience is not directly related to medicine but in order to talk about it, let me give some background. So as a Guinean-American, I struggled with my dual nationalities. What made it more difficult was the fact that a lot of people would confuse me for being Somali. My parents really tried to instill the Guinean culture to my siblings and I but because most of our family members do not live in Ohio, it was hard to embrace it. In college, I joined the African Youth League, and I was surprised by the diversity of the African students there. Each year, they have an event called African Night, in which students are allowed to showcase their culture through art forms like spoken word, singing, dancing etc. The best moment for me was when I participated in the flag walk. I honestly felt emotional holding the Guinean flag and wearing my traditional West African clothing because I felt like I was paying homage to my ancestors before me and finally accepting that my dual nationalities were a huge part of my identity. Now, I love learning more about Guinea and read about it whenever I get the chance.

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. It’s about the journey of a girl named Amari and how she ends up becoming a slave in the 1700s. The story has many twists and it definitely keeps me up at night sometimes. I see myself in Amari and the strength that she shows in the many trials that she faces inspires me when I am faced with obstacles in my own life. 10/10 would recommend anyone to read it.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I really do not think I’m that interesting but one thing that surprises people about me is that I am a phlebotomist (really tricky word) and draw blood from patients. Most of my coworkers have been doing it for at least 10 years, so it was difficult for me to become one since a lot of my patients did not want their labs drawn from a rookie like myself. But I love connecting with my patients and learning a bit about their life stories. I always laugh when I come into a room and someone says something like “The vampire is coming to get your blood today.”

Another thing a lot of people do not know about me is that in my family there has to be at least 7 Oumous. This is because my grandmother is named Oumou and her children (she had 8) decided that their first daughters would be named after her. So there’s an Oumou Fofana in Guinea, France, Canada, America, etc.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? That’s a good question and one I think about a lot! But I think I would definitely be a teacher because I like explaining things to students and seeing their improvement as the year progresses. I think I would especially love teaching younger children because of their sweet innocence and curiosity. I also considered becoming a librarian because I love books and recommending them to people.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? The biggest obstacle I (and many other premeds) face is comparing myself to other people. When I was in high school, a lot of my peers did not want to be a physician so I did not feel the need to be competitive. When I entered college, that was a different story. Everyone seemed to be doing something that I was not doing like amazing research, study abroad programs, internships, etc. So naturally, I felt intimidated and doubted my ability to pursue medicine as a career. But after talking with a friend one day, she told me that everyone is unique in their own experiences and that my journey is going to differ from someone else’s. Basically, I shouldn’t let what someone else does affect my dreams and aspirations. Even though I will always struggle with this, I know that the only person I should compare myself to is the person I was the day before and that I should continue to be a better version of myself. I think being different is an incredible thing and I know that I want to use my unique perspective and experiences to contribute to the medical field.

10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? I love Diverse Medicine! I like reading about the other students on this website and the many posts that some of the doctors share. I was introduced to it during the application bootcamp and love the initiative that it has. I’m extremely grateful for Lauren Kanzaki, who has helped me a lot in the application process and Dr. Dale who has been an incredible support system for me. I tell all my pre-med peers to join it because it is such a great platform to connect and know people. 

Interview Tips #3: The Traditional Interview

Hello Everyone!

Very appreciative of the feedback and support of my mini-blog series discussing medical school interviews! This post will be dedicated to discussing tips for the traditional interview.

What is the traditional medical school interview? They’re typically held in a one-on-one fashion with you and the interviewer. Interviews can be open or closed file, meaning the person interviewing you may have access to your application, CV, etc., or they are going into the interview blind, will make their assessments following, and will THEN look at your application, etc. While majority of traditional interviews occur in a one-on-one fashion, some schools may have more than one person interviewing you. This isn’t too common, but it’s just something extra to be prepared for.

There are pretty typical interview questions that you will be asked. Here are tips to assist with answering them-

1.)Why do you want to attend XYZ medical school?

-Look up the school’s mission statement and core values. You don’t need to memorize them, but know the gist. State that you’re interested in the school because their mission statement and core values line with your personal aspirations/mission/core values, and be able to provide examples from your CV/resume to SHOW this.

-You can talk about the value of diversity within the school.

-You can discuss your involvement with MAPS, Black/Latin Student Unions, etc. and how you TOO value diversity, and HOW you will help the institution increase their diversity overall if accepted.

-You can talk about a medical school’s mission to helping underserved and disadvantaged populations.

-Provide examples of HOW you’ve been a part of assisting similar populations, and WHY that would make you a good fit for that medical school.

-You can discuss the history of the medical school, noting important discoveries, milestones, etc. This shows that you did your homework, and are serious about the medical school.

-Bottom line, you can answer the ‘WHY THIS SCHOOL” question in several different ways. What’s most important is providing examples to help show that you are a good fit for the school in your explanation.

2.)Answering Red Flags on Applications

No applicant is perfect by any means! If you feel that there are any red flags on your application, be sure to have GREAT explanations during the interview process. For example, my MCAT was a red flag.

I discussed having a strong GPA and academic track-record in spite of my MCAT score. I also discussed how my collegiate neuroscience courses were taught by a retired Pediatric Neurologist who would often give test questions directly from USMLE and doing very well in those classes. I additionally talk about my improvement between taking the MCAT twice.

-Bottom line, come prepared with a convincing argument if you feel there are doubts within your application.

3.)What do you like to do in your free time?

This is your opportunity to shine outside of academics! If you love to cook, talk about it! If you love to play music, discuss it! MOST IMPORTANT-BE HONEST because interviewers will ask you to discuss your hobbies even further..at my home institution, one student said he enjoyed learning foreign languages, and was “fluent” in Japanese. His interviewer was actually fluent in Japanese..turns out, the applicant couldn’t hold a basic conversation, and it made him look bad.

Flip side, I am a classical pianist of nearly 20 years. For one interview, I spent 90% of the time discussing favorite composers, classical pieces, and the history of music in general. I was easily able to connect with my interviewer, and it turned out to be a wonderful connection, because I was accepted at that medical school! If you have the opportunity to know who will be interviewing you, look them up the school’s website! Sometimes, they have listed a few of their hobbies. If you have something in common, talk about it!

4.)What questions do you have about XZY medical school?

VERY IMPORTANT SECTION! When you the interviewee are asked if you have questions about the medical school, the worst thing to say is “No.” While you’re being interviewed, YOU TOO are interviewing the school to see if you are a good fit!

Be sure to ask relevant questions that aren’t so easily found on the school’s website.

Examples:

-Where do you see the medical school’s diversity initiative in the next 5 years?

-What do you like most about this medical institution?

-Why did you choose your medical specialty?

-What do you like to do in your free time?

-What opportunities are there for medical students to get involved in research?

Ask good questions that can lead to further conversation. Funny enough, doctors like to talk about themselves (haha).

In conclusion, interviewing can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! Your interviewers are VERY excited to meet you, and just want to get to know you better. You wouldn’t have been offered an interview if they didn’t think you were capable of being a start student; getting an interview is more than half the battle. Put your best foot forward, be yourself, and show them that you’re amazing! 

Lessons Learned from Failure

Dead last place again!

It was so tough. Track meet after track meet, my 4 x 400 meter men’s relay team was terrible. Making things worse, I was the anchor. The anchor who was just receiving the baton pretty much when everyone else was crossing the finish line. This meant I was the lone soul running around the track. There was dead silence as I turned the corners, watching my shadow on the track stretch and shrink. I could hear my thoughts and unfortunately they weren’t too pleasant. What was the point running by myself? I still remember convincing myself not to walk off the track. This was especially hard not to do the time when they forgot I was still completing the race and began the next event. And then… like clockwork, I reach the final turn and the cheers of pity came. 

I have had my fair share of failures but this was a special kind. On my own, I was quite athletic but here I wasn’t even given the chance to succeed. Everyone had a 300 meter head start on me. I was used to excelling in academics and other extracurricular activities but this really got me. Many of you may feel the same way. You may have started 10 steps behind the rest of the pack due to your lack of resources, race/ethnicity, gender, appearance, poor health, mental disability, or lack of guidance and this may not allow you a fair opportunity.

One thing I can guarantee you is that failure will come. I have learned so much from my experience during that track season. Failure can provide the best lessons in life.

1. It’s Okay to Hurt

Let it soak in. I know it sucks. It really sucks but you need to take time to heal, regroup and re-evaluate things. Think through what the barriers were that kept you from being successful and formulate a plan to conquer them. Sometimes, you need to be alone for a few days but don’t get too caught in your feelings. You are not the first person to go through this and you won’t be the last.

Elizabeth Blackwell was rejected from 29 medical schools before finally being accepted and becoming the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the U.S. (1849)

2. It Magnifies Character

We all know that person who throws a temper tantrum when they are losing. Some quit so they never have the opportunity to fail. There are others who exhibit the Mike Tyson complex by biting their opponent in anger. Are you the type that loses the game and refuses to shake your opponent’s hands or do you graciously accept defeat and thank them for a great game? Every time I ran around the track on my “run of shame”, I had the opportunity to stop trying, fake an injury, yell at my teammates, blame others or quit on the spot but I knew this would only hurt me in the long run.

3. It Shows Your True Friends

There are few times when friends can really show you who they really are. It’s all good for friends to show up for your marriage, graduation or other happy occasion but those who are there for you after you’ve lost a loved one or failed to matriculate into medical school are the keepers. No one likes to be around sad people but they will be there if you are special to them. However, everyone has their own life so don’t be quick to judge those who weren’t there.

Who’s there for you when you fail?

4. It Teaches You to Empathize

Understanding the pain that comes with failure allows you to empathize and have compassion for others. As I heard the pity claps during my relay, I started with embarrassment which progressed to anger and finally appreciation as my teammates and coaches waited at the finish line. I could see that they had been there before. They knew what it felt like to fail and through that were able to empathize. One who has never failed is more likely to be a bad sport after winning a match.

5. It Allows Progress

Babies fall over and over before they can walk. We often see the final product glorified but the process getting there is too often omitted. There is no human being on this planet who hasn’t failed and I’d go as far as to say that the most successful individuals have failed the most. In order to be successful you need to take big risks and with big risks there are more opportunities to fail and to fail hard. These failures if used correctly, allow one to grow and improve themselves or their product. Failing and getting back up shows just how committed and passionate you are. 

Do you have lessons learned from failure?

Here are some notable quotes:

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”      -Michael Jordan

“You might never fail on the scale I did. But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”      -J.K. Rowling

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”     -Winston Churchill

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”     -Henry Ford

“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”     -Thomas Edison   

“Our greatest fear should not be failure… but of succeeding in things in life that don’t really matter.”     -Francis Chan

Congratulations to Kevin.  Student of the Week!

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself: Hello everyone, I am Kevin and I am a Biology pre-med major at the College of Charleston. I chose to attend the College of Charleston because of the vibrant atmosphere of the city, as well as wanting a new change from the suburban area in which I was raised in. The College also has decent class sizes, and I enjoy interacting with my professors and engaging in tough classes such as organic chemistry where my questions were able to be answered efficiently. I enjoy being active by playing basketball, swimming, and running. I also enjoy watching movies (specifically horror), spending time with my friends, and reading. I decided I wanted to be a physician because I like the idea of helping patients cope with the stress their conditions may enhance. Due to health disparities, a lot of epigenetic factors influence disease in people of certain ethnicities, which is tough because a lot of these people typically live a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, my duty as a physician is to train people to learn more about their conditions and lessen the stress of having a specific condition.

2) Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher in high school was my honors anatomy and physiology teacher. I participated in this class with my brother, so I was able to engage in the class as a student and a mentor towards my brother so we could finish the class successfully. My teacher, Mrs. Banks, impacted me by influencing me to participate in the Medical Society at our high school. Engaging with this society was a delightful experience because it immersed us naïve students of medicine to a new learning field by introducing us to infectious diseases, volunteer work, stethoscope and blood pressure usage, and other aspects of medicine. I was also performing well in her course because of my enjoyment in learning about physiological mechanisms, and she pulled me out of class just to inform of me of her interest in wanting me to pursue medicine. It was a true joy hearing this from her, and this is how she impacted me to pursue medicine.

3) When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I first decided I wanted to become a doctor while I was participating in the SCRUBS program, which stands for “students can use bedside skills.” Participating in this program exposed me to a variety of patients in the hospital and being able to process the way doctors interact with patients motivated me to have a mindset that I can be a motivator and caretaker for patients of all ages. I also witnessed a heart transplant during my research experience at MUSC, and that experience awakened a sense of discipline since my mom’s side of the family has a family history of heart problems. Therefore, I can utilize what I learned in the hospital and lab to advance my knowledge about novel therapeutic interventions for patients with heart disease.

4) What area of medicine are you interested in? I am interested in either becoming a family medicine physician or a hospitalist. I realized that since I am amiable towards my peers, professors, and professionals, I would be more comfortable conversating with patients in a calmer environment. Being able to sit down with a patient and talk them through their condition/symptoms with a proper, soothing, and intelligent voice would enhance my leadership qualities which I prefer to maintain in my own office.

5) What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?The coolest experience I’ve had during my premedical journey would be using graduate level lab equipment while conducting cardiovascular research at the Medical University of South Carolina. I was able to use a microscope and the IonOptix software to analyze calcium and sarcomere transients in cardiomyocytes of mice. Being able to see the cardiomyocytes contracting amazed me, and further made me more interested in the physiological aspects of medicine.

6) What is your favorite book? My favorite book is Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes. This book contains short stories combined into one book, and the nightmarish and suspenseful qualities of the book intrigued me to read the entire book. Stephen King really made me feel like I was in every single one of his stories and reading about how these people are influenced by the supernatural was very mind-boggling.

7) Tell us one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know. One interesting thing about me that most people don’t know is that I’ve always either wanted to act in a movie or write a movie. I love horror stories because they are so suspenseful, and I began to write a story, but I was never able to think fully about the narrative of my story. Hopefully, I will be able to finish writing this story in the future.

8) If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? I would want to be an actor or director, but since that requires connections at a young age, I would pursue graduate school in biology and become a professor at a University or an AP biology teacher at a high school. If I were to become a biology teacher at a high school, I would also want to become an assistant swim coach because I used to be passionate about swimming when I was a younger child and would want to coach high school swimmers.

9) What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? The biggest obstacle as a premed was being able to perform like a graduate level student during my internship at MUSC. I was unfamiliar with research techniques such as making cell cultures, immunostaining, behavioral analysis, and using the microscope to analyze cardiomyocytes. I was also unfamiliar with cardiovascular biology. Therefore, I was provided a lot of papers about protein misfolding and how protein misfolding and calcium dyshomeostasis can influence disease processes within the cardiovascular system, and I had to spend a lot of time in the library in order to increase my knowledge about graduate level research. I also had to spend a lot of time with lab equipment, which I had to master so I could retrieve data for my research project.

10) What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? I like that I can share my experiences and achievements with everyone who participates in Diverse Medicine. I enjoy writing about these experiences because I can provide a lot of detail to people who are in different areas of the world. Diverse Medicine can help me to create connections with people who are also interested in medicine, and hopefully I will be able to get the chance to talk to recruiters. 

Interview Season Tips #2: Mini Multiple Interviews! 

More medical schools are using the MMI model vs traditional interviewing for various reasons: they test how you operate in a (relatively) stressful environment, how you think overall, and how well you work with others.

The MMI can be set up in many different ways, but they typically involve you having a limited amount of time reading a prompt, entering a room with your interviewer, and discussing the prompt in a more detailed fashion. The questions here can range from “Tell me more about yourself,” to complex ethical questions. Regardless of the question-type, be sure to keep calm, appear confident in your answers, and understand that it’s okay to make a mistake, but to also learn from it as you move to the next prompt. Expect 7-10 prompts, depending on the medical institution.

Some MMI’s may also want to see how well you work with others. On one of my MMI’s, the interviewees were divided into a few groups, were given an assigned project/discussion, and had to present the topic to our entire interviewing group and faculty. The purpose is to see how well you think in time-sensitive situations in addition to how well you work with others. An example of a group prompt would:

“You’re given five million dollars to create a health initiative of your choice, what would you use the money for, how would allocate the finances, and what would be the expected outcomes?”

The key to doing well in an MMI is to PRACTICE beforehand! You can Google practice MMI questions and try to time yourself. While the questions you find may be different from that on interview day, you will be well prepared in dealing with timed situations. If you have a MAPS Chapter, you can easily set up practice MMI’s, or even reach out to your local SNMA chapter to help out as well!

RESTING the night before is also essential, as MMI’s can be exhausting, as they require a lot of energy overall.

DON’T FRET if you make a mistake on a single prompt. Many MMI’s are scored, and will drop your lowest 1-2 scores, so don’t worry too much, jut be yourself!

While this blogpost was more general regarding MMI’s, my next post will be much more specific on how to do well on traditional interviews.

Stay tuned!

Aaron D. Dotson

M4 | Class of 2020

Saint Louis University School of Medicine  

Congratulations to Amber!  Student of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello everyone! My name is Amber Donald and I am a rising senior at the University of Florida studying Health Education & Behavior on the pre-medical track. I am a goofy and loving individual who is passionate about self-love, mental health, and music. I aspire to become a physician one day rooted in social justice and public health work. Feel free to watch my profile video where I explain some more random facts about myself 🙂

I am spending my summer in Boston through the Health Career Connection (HCC) program. It is a public health internship and I got paired with an accountable care organization called Community Care Cooperative (C3). I am researching how to enhance the patient experience and assisting them in developing a universal database that screens for social determinants of health for all the patients at the 17 community health centers.

I plan on applying/matriculating to medical school for the 2020-2021 application cycle and currently researching options for my gap year. If you know of any good programs or options I can do during my gap year, I would greatly appreciate anything you share. In addition, the last pre-req courses that I will be taking this upcoming year is Physics and I am a little nervous about it so I will appreciate any advice, tips, or words of encouragement!

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? There are honestly three favorite teachers I have had in my life. The first was my 5th grade teacher. She is a Black Woman who challenged me and saw potential in me. She saw something great that I could not comprehend at the time. I am forever thankful for everything she poured into me because she sharpened my resilience, ambition, and diligence entering middle school and beyond.

My AICE Marine Science teacher in high school was one of my favorite teachers as well because he is one of those teachers that loves his job and is in the occupation purely for the students. His passion for marine science was evident as soon as you entered his classroom. He truly cared about his students and he always gave me great life advice as well. I left his class not only prepared for my final exam, but for college as well.

Finally, my AICE math teacher was also one of my favorite teachers because she met me where I was at and never gave up on me. The pace and approach of the class was extremely overwhelming to me initially, but she made sure I understood no matter how many questions I had. She saw me for who I am, recognized my strengths and helped me with my weaknesses. She was also more than just a math teacher. She would invite some of us over at the end of the year for a celebration and help us plan for college and life as well.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I can not pinpoint an “ah-ha” moment for me when I decided I wanted to become a doctor. I was never one of those kids who knew exactly what they wanted to be growing up. I just knew I always had this huge heart and found myself most happy when I was engaging in activities that were community involved. As I grew older and became more socially conscious I started looking at issues such as the Henrietta Lacks story and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and realized how the healthcare system has always neglected Black bodies. This ignited a fire within me to help make change. I think that coupled with my own personal, family health issues and my heart for service are all major components that lead me to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am extremely passionate about mental health so the field of Psychiatry intrigues me. There is a huge stigma within the Black community about mental health and I want to help break that. I look forward to opening up a clinic with my mom in the future one day. Although that is one of my interests right now, I am also open to exploring other areas of medicine and looking forward to rotations once I am in medical school to truly decide what is the best field for me.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? The coolest experience I have had so far on my premedical journey has been getting to attend the Student National Medical Association conference in April. It was in Philly and I got to go with my MAPS chapter. It was so cool to be surrounded by so many minority students, doctors, health professionals, professors, and more making strides in the field of health. From the networking to the workshops to the ceremonies, I truly felt like I was meant to be there and left with validation, motivation, and excitement for my future.

6. What is your favorite book? One of my favorite book series growing up as a child is the The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. The series is so intriguing and a perfect blend of mystery, challenging SAT words, and character development. I always felt like I was in my own little world when I read those books.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. One interesting thing about me is that I started a rap group with some of my friends last Spring called the Scholar Girlz. We were studying one day and it just happened. I hope to drop a Mixtape soon in the Fall. It is a fun little side hobby. I have been working on my freestyle skills this summer as well.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? Oh wow, I love this question so much. I feel like I have been called to do a lot of things in life. I have a health/science side to me, but also an artistic/creative side as well. I would want to become a DJ, a voice actor, have my own talk show like Oprah, or have my own radio station/podcast. I also make this joke that I am going to retire as a high school band director one day. I see myself having my own businesses, like family-based clinics and restaurants.

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 student thus far has been Organic Chemistry. Organic Chemistry led me into a state of depression that I thought I was not going to be able to escape. I started to have Imposter Syndrome, questioning my worth and my dreams of becoming a doctor. I had to drop and retake both Organic Chemistry 1 and 2, but I pushed through and I finished. I may not have gotten the best grades in course series, but I am proud of myself for persevering.

10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? I love how Diverse Medicine is a community. A community of like-minded people supporting one another on their journey in medicine and health. I love how there is so much positivity, advice, and resources being shared. Whenever I start to doubt myself on my journey, I find myself coming on this website for inspiration and more. I am forever thankful for this website and all the amazing people on here. 

Interview Season Tips! 

As an active member of my medical school’s admissions committee, I wanted to take the time to provide some (periodic interview tips to help build preparedness, confidence, and hopefully acceptance!

Tip #1: Traveling

What might seem simple can easily become complex. When traveling for an interview, ensure that you’re as prepared as possible. Create and review a general checklist BEFORE departing to your destination. Double/triple check to make sure you have everything you need.

General Things:

-Invest in a garment bag when flying, especially if your travels require changing planes. If possibly, opt for carry-on luggage instead of checking it in. Let’s face it, luggage can easily get lost by airline companies when you least expect it, and this will reduce the chances of that happening, as the responsibility it placed on you, instead of someone else. You can carry-on a garment bag with your professional clothing, and hang it in the aircraft’s closet at the front of the plane. Do make a reminder on your phone not to forget it once you deplane!

-Earn points and build credit during interview season! Many of my medical school colleagues have been accepted for credit cards that allows them to earn travel reward points during the busy interview season. Of course, read the fine print and make sure you have a means to pay off the credit cards ASAP before considering them!

-Always test out the hotel iron BEFORE using it on your clothes. I’ve had a few friends have their white dress shirts ruined by hotel irons because they had dirt and other things on them. Test out the iron on the white hotel towels FIRST. To help reduce mishap even further, pack two dress shirts for an interview trip if needed.

-SAVE MONEY IF YOU CAN! If the medical school has a program that would allow for you to stay with a medical student during your interview time, TAKE IT. You save money, the (usually broke haha) med student may make some money too with housing you from their school, and it gives you the ability to learn even further the lifestyle of a med student. Be sure to make a good impression if you do this. In the case the school doesn’t have a designated program, reach out to their Office of Diversity, and ask if any SNMA-LMSA members would be open to you staying with them during your interview.

That’s all I have for now! Check back in for more interview cycle tips! DO REACH OUT if you’re planning to interview at Saint Louis University School of Medicine (hint hint!)

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