Super Star Blogs!

Getting Free Money

Going to college for free was a major goal of mine. I vowed to myself I would never be a financial burden for my parents who had already invested so much in me. The only problem was I did not know how to get this money. I thought I would have to work 2 jobs, donate a kidney and panhandle on the weekends to make this a reality. Thanks to my junior year English teacher, I was able to achieve this goal with all of my organs still present. You see, every morning at the beginning of class, we would grudgingly pull out our journal, flip to the back and begin writing down 5 scholarship opportunities she had projected on the screen. We would write the title and the criteria for each one. By the end of the year I had accumulated a nice list of scholarships, many of which I was eligible for and applied for the following year. I still wish I remembered that teacher’s name. I would give her a huge hug if I could.

A few weeks ago, I was super proud when my mentee (who was accepted to medical school already!) informed me he was applying for a scholarship. Isn’t that awesome? I certainly didn’t take full advantage of applying for scholarships during college but I tell all premedical students to do so. It sure could have helped with books, MCAT classes, etc. 

There are so many organizations with money sitting there waiting for someone to apply for it. In fact, a few years ago on this website, we had a partnership with Kaplan and they allowed us to literally give out free MCAT courses. We struggled to find takers for this FREE $2,400 course yet we received so many messages from students challenged financially. I want to encourage each and every one of you to apply, apply, apply for scholarships and awards. Seek opportunities to be ambassadors. I recommend following these simple steps:

1. Purchase a journal or start a spreadsheet

2. Make a budget and set goals

3. Research scholarship and award opportunities through a Google search or your school’s website and take notes on criteria and deadlines. Make sure source is reliable.

4. Once a month, check in and aim to apply for one of these opportunities

By taking these steps, your pocketbook and maybe your parents will be very grateful. Always be careful though because there are scammers out there. If you have any suggestions on good websites or opportunities, please share. Or, if you have additional tips I’d love to hear/see them.

Beware of The Minority Tax

It’s time to pay your taxes!!! I never believed in the concept of burn out until I finally burned out. For years and years I told myself to push through and that nothing could touch me. Then I realized we are all human and everyone can be touched. This caused me to take a step back an ask myself what it was that drove me to such fatigue. It was the “minority tax”.

Minority tax is the basic concept that when you are one of the few racial/ethnic minorities you’ll be called upon more than others simply because someone who looks like you needs to have a seat at the table. For example, as one of the 2-3% percent of black men in the medical field, I am often asked to do certain tasks related to getting more black men in the field of medicine. Fortunately, I believe that is important work and I enjoy doing it. However, it’s not all things of a similar vein that I desire to do, yet I understand the need to have a representative voice.

The real issue with the minority tax is more often than not, we are not credited for the work that is done. Keep in mind that I said credited, not acknowledged. Typically, we are expected to do the same amount of work as everyone else, PLUS that which is specific to our minority status. That’s why it’s called a “tax”, we have to do more than others. The downside to this is it makes career progression more challenging. It becomes more difficult for us to perform other assigned tasks to the degree of excellence which we otherwise could. Again, I’d like you to pay special attention to my choice of words. I said it becomes more “difficult” not impossible. That is important to note because we still have to find a way to perform at that level.

I’m writing this blog specifically with students in mind. I want you to be familiar with this tax before Uncle Sam comes knocking on your door. Prepare for it and have strategies in place to ensure you perform at a level of excellence while paying the tax collector. The answer is NOT to avoid the taxation. We need your voices at the table. Rather, prioritize what’s important to you, master the work so you become efficient in it, then train up the next generation to do the same.

Nobody said this journey into and through medicine would be easy…but I am telling you it will probably be worth it!

Meet the Man of the Year

This year’s San Antonio Business Journal 40 Under 40 Man of the Year title was awarded to a long time friend of mine, Dr. Ray Altamirano. This is one of the most down to earth, passionate and altruistic individuals I know. He has recently been on the Kelly Clarkson Show and the Doctors TV show and has a very interesting background. He had a unique path to becoming a medical doctor and now has a unique style of practice incorporating art and family medicine to assist his underserved community including undocumented immigrants. Check out our interview with him.

Diverse Medicine: So tell us a little about yourself.

Dr. Altamirano: I am Ray Altamirano MD, first generation American born and raised in San Antonio, TX by Mexican immigrant parents. I am a board-certified family medicine physician practicing in ER as well as my own clinic as a fee-for-service practice for the uninsured.

Diverse Medicine: What did it take to become a family medicine doctor?

Dr. Altamirano: I applied for medical school twice in Texas and interviewed with multiple schools only to be wait-listed, twice. I attended medical school in Mexico at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG) and completed the 5th Pathway Program to practice in the USA

Diverse Medicine: How was your experience attending medical school at UAG?

Dr. Altamirano: Uphill battle. School was in a foreign country with their own set of rules. Abide or get nowhere. It molded me to be headstrong and gritty.

Diverse Medicine: So, you practice a very interesting type of medicine. Can you tell us a little about it?

Dr. Altamirano: I left primary care after 3 years to pursue higher-paying roles such as hospitalist work and eventually ER. Financially, I felt comfortable, but there was a hole in my heart to practice in my community with the underserved. I founded my clinic not because I needed the job, but I needed peace for my soul. I needed to fulfill God’s work at the community level and start a one-man movement for better care and access for the uninsured and undocumented

Diverse Medicine: That’s amazing! What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about this type of medical practice?

Dr. Altamirano: Most challenging is definitely the pioneering of it. Healthcare for the uninsured is an abyss. There is no system. Get in where they allow you to (and can afford). The most rewarding part is the community coming through for itself. The respect and support from my community

Diverse Medicine: Do you think this type of practice will catch on?

Dr. Altamirano: Yes, I do. We did not invent the wheel. This is how healthcare was in the 1980’s. The doctor and patient with no one to get in the way. There is 100% autonomy to practice as I see fit. This freedom is bliss for an altruist. We are a very close cousin to direct primary care (DPC).

Diverse Medicine: We’ve seen you all over the place on the “Kelly Clarkson Show” and “the Doctors”. How did they find out about you?

Dr. Altamirano: They “discovered” me through local news mediums and social media. Adam King with KABB in San Antonio aired a story on my efforts and the Kelly Clarkson Show producers saw my piece on a Seattle affiliate. Seattle? I know.

Diverse Medicine: This is super cool. I love your artwork by the way. Make sure ya’ll check it out. What inspires you to paint?

Dr. Altamirano: The content of my art has very little to do with my emotions at the time I create it. I usually draw from past-time nostalgia. Usually, things that are light-hearted and make me laugh. My art is called Amar Es Vivir: To Love is to Live. I like vivid colors and am generally flattered when other’s like my work, but each project is process over product. Whatever I was feeling in those times is on canvas to stay and off my shoulders.

Diverse Medicine: What have you learned working with the patient population you work with? 

Dr. Altamirano: I learned that connecting on the human level ALWAYS works. Treat people like family and they respond with their best effort. The coolest experience has nothing to do with the exam room and much more to do with the lobby. I witnessed a man (who could barely afford his own $100 visit) pay for a complete stranger in the lobby because he felt compelled to do so after meeting me. That’s the true spirit of my clinic.

Diverse Medicine: Do you feel diversity is important in medicine and why?

Dr. Altamirano: Diversity is America. Cultural understanding is very important when connecting with people who are already afraid of the circumstance. If the patient relates to you before you even speak, you already started the process on an unspoken level. The rest is passive.

Diverse Medicine: Do you have recommendations for our premedical students, medical students and residents on Diverse Medicine?

Dr. Altamirano: No matter how you think others see you, you are just as important and entitled to seek your passions. I had to go to another country to prove it to myself. There will always be an obstacle: money, uneven playing fields, skin color, that accent you didn’t know you have…but when you recognize that steam engine of grit inside you, there’s no greater power.

Pretty cool huh? If you have any questions for Dr. Altamirano feel free to ask in the comment section.

Permission to be Great!

Amazing how one sentence can change your life forever. My one sentence came about 7 years ago. It was late evening and I was standing outside my developmental coach’s house. Out of nowhere, he began yelling at me. “Dale,” he said, “you don’t know what you’ve got. You’re waiting for someone to let you become great. You’ve already got it in you. Well, I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO BE GREAT!” That’s it.

That sentence changed my life. I felt released to go out an conquer. The shackles had been released. At that moment, I realized that there was really nothing holding me back from chasing my dreams. All excuses disappeared. I had everything I needed to be great. For some odd reason, I just needed someone to say those words.

Here’s my question to you. Do you realize you have permission to be great? Or are you locked in a mental prison made by society? You can’t do this….you can’t do that. Nobody has ever accomplished that before. It’s impossible. All of these are lies! Don’t believe them.

I want you to know that greatness is in you. I’m no Bible scholar but I believe there’s a verse that describes all of us as masterpieces. I take that to mean we are all great. You already have everything that you need to be successful at your disposal. You just have to work for it and G.R.I.N.D.

I’ll leave you with this. I, Dr. Dale, give you permission to be great!

Mamba Medicine

January 26th, 2020… We will forever remember where we were when we heard the news. Shocked… speechless… heartbroken. We all felt the exact same way.

In the days that followed, there was a collective grief and melancholy that flooded social media. This man we all watched play basketball since his teenage years was no longer with us. He seemed larger than life and had accomplished so many amazing feats. I believed the best was still yet to come in his retirement years. Kobe was in a league of his own. He was the last of a dying breed in the league. See, NBA players no longer leave it all out there like they did back then. The top players never partake in the dunk contest and at times skip out on representing our country during international play. It’s a different game now. While they all work very hard at their craft, no one did it better than Kobe Bryant. His Mamba Mentality is unrivaled. This man would be up at 4am working on his game. It really got me thinking about the parallels with medicine and if this mentality translates positively or negatively.

Can you think of what the Mamba Mentality would look like in medicine? I call this Mamba Medicine.

Imagine someone who is extremely passionate and infatuated with being the best doctor possible. This student wakes up before sunrise every morning and gets to the library before everyone else. I can see him or her being president of the premed society and maybe even lead their regional chapter. This hard work would pay off no doubt with a near 4.0 GPA and 99th percentile MCAT score. This same student will aim for the top medical schools and crush that as well on their way to earning a highly sought-after fellowship. See, those with the Mamba Mentality don’t believe in leaving outcomes to fate – hard work is next to God. This is their ticket to success and it consumes their lives. Forget “Ball is Life” – “Medicine is Life”!

Mamba Medicine may look a bit like this. Looking from the outside-in, others will revere this student or doctor. Besides, this is the smartest student in the class and it all comes so easy for her or him. We all know the type. However, I don’t quite envy this individual. In my mind, I see the strain and stress one with this mindset places on their own body. The waking up at 3am to study translates to little sleep. The hours studying or working means very little time spent with their family and friends. The always in a rush leaves little time to eat healthy or take in the beautiful little things in life. The competitive nature makes them suspicious of others. The Mamba Mentality may cause a student to partake in cut throat acts in order to get a leg up on or advantage over his or her peers.

I appreciate hard work and all but I feel we at times do a disservice to individuals with this mentality. We in a way further mold them with positive reinforcement and enable toxic behavior. We place enormous expectations on them and hold them to a different standard. We don’t ask about their well-being enough or encourage them to rest. I believe this Mamba Mentality takes a huge toll on the individual. I would actually liken it to what med students would call a “gunner”. As a practicing physician, this can certainly lead to burnout, depression, addiction and health problems. I picture the TV character House as one with this mentality. He may seem super smart but would you want to be him knowing what goes on in the background?

At the end of the day, I believe many with this mentality don’t take in the big picture and fail to see things holistically. Happiness with this mentality relies on being superior to others around you so you have to outwork them or bring them down. In medicine, it is important to exhibit passion and good work ethic but eating, sleeping and breathing medicine in order to be the best doctor is detrimental to your health. While it may be admirable in sports and entertainment, the Mamba Mentality in medicine can be toxic to your health.

What are your thoughts on the Mamba Mentality in medicine?

In loving memory of the nine passengers who lost their lives.

Congratulations to Jonathan!  Student of the Week!

1. Tell Us About Yourself.  I was born in Memphis, Tennessee raised in Indianapolis, Indiana where I currently live, and attended highschool in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at The Episcopal Academy. 1. I am a senior studying Neuroscience and doing physical therapy and human movement research at Feinberg Medical School. I also volunteer at Feinberg’s hospital currently stationed in their organ transplant department. I play on the Northwestern Rugby Team and love to stay fit.

2.  Who was your favorite teacher in high school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite highschool teacher was Mrs. Miklavcic who was my Honors and AP Chemistry teacher. Mrs. Miklavcic was my first African American and she pushed me to be the best student I possibly could.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I first decided I wanted to be a doctor in the 4th grade. I had just been diagnosed with sever’s disease and was devastated as I had been told I would miss my entire football season. My doctor comforted me and since I was a straight A student he told me that I would be able to replace him one day. Having this idea planted in my head I researched different medical positions and determined I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am interested in Orthopedics

5. What is the coolest experience you have experienced on your premed journey?  By far the coolest experience I’ve had on my premedical journey was going to Haiti and providing medical service to people living in the mountains

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is The Hunger Games

7. Tell us one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know.  I have a Youtube Video with over 46,000 views

8.  If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? If I couldn’t be a doctor I would either go into politics or radio/television/film

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 was performing well in my classes at Northwestern. Going into college I was already a very hard worker, but in-order to maintain a decent GPA in comparison to the other premeds at Northwestern I learned to structure my life in a way that would make me even more efficient.

10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? What I like most about Diverse Medicine is how it is able to establish a national network of premed students and connects them with medical school students and doctors giving them the cultural advantage of passed down knowledge that many would not have.

Why You Scurrrrr’d?

FEAR! It’s an emotion that drives us to do unreasonable things. We cry because of fear, we fight because of fear, and we judge others because of fear. Perhaps most important to the premedical student, we don’t try because of fear.

Recently, I had the opportunity to give the MLK Keynote Address at a major medical center. I went on stage and delivered my message to an audience of 400 people or so. When I stepped off the stage, something in me didn’t feel right. I didn’t think I connected with audience as well as I usually do. The feeling was fleeting as it immediately left when people began to approach me afterwards. Two young individuals (one a doctor an the other a now premed) came to thank me. Both had been struggling with the same issue…FEAR.

The premedical student was considering a career in the healthcare industry, however did not plan to pursue and MD or DO degree. When I asked why, he let me know that he was didn’t think we was good enough for it. He was afraid that he didn’t have what it takes. The young doctor was considering applying for a prestigious position, however was also afraid that she wouldn’t be a strong enough candidate to get it. After speaking to both of them, they changed their course and STOMPED ALL OVER THAT FEAR!

Fear holds us back way too much. In this world which we live in, we’re constantly trained to be afraid of things and because of that, to reserve ourselves. This grossly limits our potential to become great.

I’ve decided in my heart that fear has no hold on me. I’m striving for greatness. Will you strive with me???

What fears hold you back in life? Please share.

The Humble Doctor

Doctors can be some of the most humble, down-to-earth people or the most obnoxious, self-centered jerks. You probably know some in each category. The sad thing is that medicine can condition one to think very highly of themselves and people infrequently tell them the truth about themselves.

Since the day you are accepted to medical or professional school, you are automatically elevated by your family and friends. It is very easy to get the superman/woman complex. The praises and adoration come in immediately… “My baby is going to be a doctor.” Or for my Nigerians out there, “My child, thee doc-tuh!” 

Furthermore, the white coat takes you to another level. I can tell a million stories of med students and medical doctors who let this get to their head. I’d like to share 5 areas that may help you to stay humble despite the constant praise.

1. Be Grateful:

Always be thankful to those who helped you get to where you are. There are always people who made sacrifices for you. Sometimes those who sacrificed for you were not fortunate enough to be in your shoes. My father is one of the brightest men I know but as a young father of four who had the opportunity to go to medical school, he chose not to in order to feed his family. Just imagine if you were born a few decades ago, medicine may not be an option for you because of your race, gender, birthplace or socioeconomic status. You worked hard to get there but you didn’t do it on your own. Being appreciative for the opportunity may bring humility.

2. Drop the Doctor Title:

Yes, you worked hard for it but it’s sometimes refreshing to be around folks who aren’t referring to you as doctor or who don’t even know you are a doctor. Maybe it’s playing soccer with a group of people or playing the saxophone with a jazz band. Let them see you in a different light. After four years of playing basketball at a local gym, my cover was finally blown a few weeks ago because someone saw my picture in the newspaper. Now they all call me doctor (argh) all the time. It’s not the same.

3. Volunteer or Work Menial Job:

Volunteering allows you to be selfless and working menial jobs allows you to relate to others. Some volunteer for selfish reasons but when there are no applications to check boxes on genuineness and humility shows. I am always impressed by my colleagues who volunteer when a natural disaster occurs. One of my favorite things to do while I was a fellow was riding with my buddy buying junk or unwanted appliances, repairing them and selling them. We really looked like Sanford and Son out there but it felt so good. Better yet, I learned a lot about something outside of medicine and met a lot of cool people.

4. Escape the Cycle:

I always looked at medical training as never-ending inferior-superior circle. You keep rising up during your training but can never reach the top. Each time you reach the top, you graduate to the next level where you are back at the bottom. Someone is always looking down on you and it is very easy to take that out on someone else. It’s a perpetual cycle where people are always projecting their insecurities on those perceived as being less knowledgeable or of lower caliber training programs.

5. Emulate a Positive Person or Deity:

None of us are perfect but we can only try to be the best people we can be. If we think of 3 people we really admire and want to be like, I suspect most if not all of them are humble. Strive to model your behavior after them. It sounds cliché but WWJD is a solid guide for many. He would heal the sick without expecting anything in return. He would wash others feet. He would lay his life down for His friends. 

Stop Stressin’ & Get Organized!

I’ve gotta confess y’all, I’ve been stressing out a little lately. Life has got me crazy busy and it’s catching up. You know the feeling right….The one where it feels like you’re moving a thousand miles per hour while someone’s blasting a fire hose in your face with a pack of wolves chasing you. Ya…that’s what I’m feeling.

On Thursday mornings, I have a call with my assistant to make sure everything is in order. During our call today, I realized that it’s NOT. As she reviewed things with me, it became evident that there are a million things that need to be done in a very short period of time. Internally, I began to freak out a little. I say internally because I’m an ICU doc so it’s pretty tough to tell when I’m freaking out on the outside. Nonetheless, my assistant could sense it in my voice/tone somehow and she began to reassure me that we’d be okay and get everything done. Speaking with her brought me to one key message, and it’s my message for the next few weeks…Are you ready for it???/


That’s it. That’s the message. Organization is essential to success and as more duties crept into my life, I failed to organize them simultaneously.  Things were leading up to burnout.  And here’s the thing about burnout…often, you don’t know you’re burned out until your all the way burned out!   My assistant calmed my nerves rather quickly as she began to lay out how she would spend the next few days getting everything organized for us. By the end of the call, I felt at ease again.

This was a great lesson for me. An awesome reminder of the importance of being organized and prepared. We get nervous when we’re not ready. We’re not ready when we’re not organized. As you move into the upcoming months, I challenge you to take a step back and get organized before jumping in. After that, say a little prayer and get back at it! It will greatly calm your nerves.  

What are some cool things you do to deal with stress?  Please share.

Dr. Daniel’s Top 5 Factors When Choosing a Medical School

I’m beginning to receive those awesome messages from students informing me they’ve been accepted to medical school! For those who haven’t heard back yet, there’s still plenty of time so keep in communication with the schools. Some of you are now left with the decision of which school to attend. First of all, this is a great problem to have but do not take it lightly. This decision can have long term consequences.

I was told by a friend championing diversity in medical school recently that the efforts to improve the numbers are slowly but gradually improving but we need to divert some of this energy to making sure students stay in school. I encourage you to read my previous blog discussing my top 5 reasons why medical students drop out. This can give insight on things to prepare for or strengthen prior to matriculating. I’d like to now provide you with a little guidance on selecting a medical school from a 10-year post MD graduation perspective.

1. Support Support Support!

This by far is most critical in my opinion. You can live in Timbukto and be fine if you have the right community around you. I don’t need to tell you that med school is already stressful enough. You need to be in an environment that welcomes you. It is always nice to see not only students but also faculty who look and behave like you. You want to make sure there are counseling services available and please use them when you need help. The major complaint I hear from URM medical students is feeling no one understands them or can identifies with them. This tends to lead to imposter syndrome. Family and hometown friends can be a good source only if they appreciate the rigors of medical school. 

2. Cost

I place this as the second most important factor because paying back loans is for the birds. The median debt for medical school was $200,000 in 2018. Going to an in-state, public school tends to be the cheapest route. A number of schools are now waiving tuition which is amazing. A military education and MD/PhD can get you a free education possibly with stipend included but make sure this is really what you want to do because they demand your time in return. You must also take into consideration cost of housing and transportation (locally and back home for holidays) in the area.

3. Location

When considering the above, you may be left with a local medical school as the best option. That is if you have a welcoming home situation that won’t be a distractor. There is nothing like being able to drop by the parent’s place, take a swig from the juice in the refrigerator, wash a few loads of laundry, and chat a bit before driving back home the same day to study for anatomy. But beyond the conveniences, the location might also be a place you want to permanently settle. It may be in a rural or urban setting which will help you determine if you like this type of medicine. There are states like Texas where many doctors love to practice in part due to pro-doctor legislation. Some states may also take longer to get licensed to practice so you may take that into consideration. 

4. Academics/Curriculum

I almost feel bad placing this so low on my list but I personally believe it is not as important as the earlier areas. Don’t get me wrong, how well students do on the USMLE and how well they match is very important but you are an individual and a lot of that depends on how much work you put in. Regardless of program, you will graduate with a MD/DO degree and most programs will provide you with a great education. You do need to make sure you have first set yourself up to succeed in medical school. Residency and fellowship is where you really hone your skills. If there is a particular passion or research area you love and this particular school is one of few that offer it then this may be the program for you. What is the training style of the program? Is it more independent learning, in class lectures or problem-based sessions? Is it an MD or DO program? See how this fits you.

5. Prestige

If you can get into a top medical school that is great but it may not be worth it if the above factors are not optimal. Top medical school mainly benefit you when it comes to networking and I do believe residency program like to tout that they have students from these programs. Prestige is more valuable for those wanting to practice in an academic setting especially if seeking research or leadership roles. The way I look at it, prestigious medical schools will not serve you as much as prestigious residency or fellowships. You also get paid as a resident so you don’t have to worry about incurring debt at that time. As a practicing physician, rarely do patients or other doctors ask you where you went to medical school but more often they ask where you did your residency or fellowship training. Now in the technology age, patients google you and may choose to come to you because they notice you trained at a top program.

So, there you have it. Dr. Daniel’s 5 top factors (in order) to consider when selecting a medical school. I’d love to hear any feedback. Would you rearrange things or add anything else?


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