Super Star Blogs!

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???/

ORGANIZE

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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2019 Was Great…But 2020 Will be Better!

How was your 2019?  Will 2020 be better?


As 2019 comes to an end, I’m encouraged when I reflect on all the amazing things God brought this year. Certainly, we’ve all had our challenges, but I’m a firm believer that as each year ends, the best thing we can do is take a moment and appreciate the blessings it came with.


2019 brought great success to a few of our organizations. DiverseMedicine.com continues to grow and we are constantly witnessing more and more of you gain admission to medical school. This year, we’ve added a mentoring center that has been connecting premeds with doctors and medical students. The feedback we’ve gotten regarding mentoring has been awesome and we’re excited to see the impact it has on our students’ lives.

I want you all to know that we’re listening and hearing you loud and clear. Perhaps the number one request we received was to bring back the Diverse Medicine app. So…we’re bringing it back. New and improved! We want to make it easier for you to connect with recruiters. We want to make it easier for you to connect with mentors. We want it to be easier for you to connect with each other. Our goal is to meet your needs so you can be successful on your journey.

Black Men In White Coats took the nation by storm in 2019! One summit turned into a real movement! We were blessed to take our message on the Today Show, Forbes, Sirius XM, and more! What’s even cooler is that 2020 promises bigger and better outcomes. We’re going to have summits in Dallas, Chicago, New York, and more. What this means is that more of our youth will be exposed to the field of medicine and in turn be provided with more opportunities in life. That’s why we do this!

So, as we exit 2019 and move into 2020…we want you to know that we’re here for you! We’ll keep working hard to help you reach your dreams!

I’ll end this post with the question I began with.  I’d love to hear your answers.  How was your 2019? Will 2020 be better?

Congratulations to Magaly! Student of the Week!

1. Tell us about yourself. I, Magaly Cabrera-Ortiz, am the proud daughter of naturalized citizens from El Salvador and Peru. Aside from my parents, I have two brothers and am the middle child. When I am not studying, I can be found working out at the gym or actively involved with sports including soccer (intramural, women, and coed team), lacrosse, boxing, cross country, etc. I used to swim, do gymnastics, and play the piano. I can still play the violin as I have played from preschool to high school/early college. I enjoy being outdoors and spending quality time with my family and dog. I have been volunteering at Inova Fairfax Hospital since senior year of high school from the gift shops, patient support services, to pediatrics (current). I am a translator and am also responsible for medical intake at the Arlington Free Clinic. I enjoy mentoring younger students with college preparation and navigating being a pre-professional health student. I work on an occasional basis as a babysitter or nanny, pet sitter, and do side jobs with my brother (lawn mowing, snow shoveling, yard work, etc). Aside from being self-employed, this is my second year at a high school where I work with high school students in developing college and life skills through AVID (Advanced Via Individual Determination) program.

While I am currently attending George Mason University, my journey began at James Madison University. As a transfer student, I have had the opportunity to expand my horizons, interact with different students, and seek different opportunities. Chemistry has been a challenging subject for me. At my first institution, I remember how frustrated I would get because I would put the time in to do the homework, understand the information, and attend lectures and review sessions. Through each frustration, I would call home and remember the countless times I was about to give up being pre-med and switch majors. However, I am thankful for a strong family support system, having volunteered at the hospital, and meeting mentors. Through my family and mentors, they continued encouraging and believing in me when I could not. Through volunteering at the hospital and travelling to the homeland of my parents, I found the motivation with why I want to become a doctor. These factors are what I remind myself with if I am ever questioning my decision to help me refocus.

At my current institution (GMU), I am majoring in Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-Med). I am excited to be staying an extra year as I am currently working on math pre-requisites to apply for a Bioengineering minor. This allows me the opportunity to take math classes with my younger brother. I am the president of Patriots for Health Assistance, an on-campus organization, and organize volunteer opportunities for students to better understand the healthcare disparities in the communities. One of our most successful events is making birthing kits for the women and midwives of Haiti for safer births.

I have participated the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) at Rutgers and conducted research at the University of Arizona through the Border Latino & American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER).

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? In high school, my favorite teacher and mentor has been Michael Jeffry. He was my teacher for Baby Bio and AP Bio. When he attended JMU, he was on the pre-med track before deciding to become a teacher. Since I had him my 9th grade year, I was able to interact with Mr. Jeffry on a regular basis and he also knew that I wanted to become a doctor. However, in AP Biology, I wasn’t doing well on exams. I scored poorly because I would let me test anxiety become and obstacle. Through staying after school, Mr. Jeffry helped me learn testing strategies and really encouraged me that regardless of an 18% or whatever score on an exam, I was not a number. He really impacted my mentality that helps me in college. In addition, not only did he believe in me, I felt like he cared about my education. If I had questions on suggestions on the courses to take next semester or how to do well in college chemistry, he has always been there still to this day. Individuals that impact you are the ones to always remember of.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? In my early childhood, I would answer to individuals saying I wanted to become a doctor. However, I do not remember a specific moment in my life that has propelled me in my decision and desire to become a physician. Rather, I believe it has been a couple of events together. One of the initial events was the passing of my grandfather in El Salvador. Due to the distance from the ranch to medical care, my family and I relied on the services from the Red Cross in helping my grandfather. After taking him to the hospital, it still was not understood what was causing his alignment and he passed away back on our ranch with agony. Still not knowing why he was in so much pain drove me to want to attempt in finding answers. Additionally, I noticed healthcare disparities and differences in access to quality care in El Salvador compared to the United States.

It is through my own community that I have noticed the high need of bilingual physicians. I want my patients to feel comfortable talking to me and not have their words lost through a translation. Through cultural competency, I want to become that physician that they trust with in hopes of it improving their access to care and reducing language and cultural barriers. Therefore, I enjoy volunteering in the hospital and at the Arlington Free Clinic because I can ensure that their voices are being heard and hope to directly impact the community in the future.

As a close-knit family, I would always accompany my mother and brother to their appointments and vice versa. Through interactions with physicians, they would break down the information. I would always be curious and play with the bone model set of the knee, spine, or ankle at the orthopedic or chiropractic office. Last semester, I had the opportunity to shadow a specialty that I found of my interest. These different experiences affirm my decision in wanting to become a doctor that provides to the underserved communities, connects with her patients and community, and potentially become an Orthopedic Surgeon (Sports Medicine).

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Orthopedic Surgeon (Sports Medicine). I have shadowed several specialties and I thoroughly enjoyed shadowing in this field from being in the OR to the office. As an athlete, I understand how the body moves and the mechanisms of knee, shoulder movement, etc. This field allowed me to interact with a diverse population and when dealing with athletes, I understood the sense of urgency in helping them recover so that they can return to performing at their level. I also enjoyed this specialty because I was better able to understand the decisions of physicians when it came to bones and surgery because I had my own injury (shoulder dislocation and ligamentous laxity) and my mother had a broken finger and arthritis. I was better able to understand the rationale of physicians and see injuries I have not heard of before and realized that it’s more than just seeing patients with a finger or just foot injuries.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? I think one of the coolest experiences so far has been putting myself out of my comfort zone when applying to summer programs. I have been born and raised on the east coast. However, this past summer, I came across a research opportunity at the University of Arizona. Before this program, I had never been in this state and was able to experience the “dry heat” Arizona is known for. I believe this summer program has been one of the coolest experiences because part of the program consisted of only Arizona specific opportunities, I would have not had the chance to do elsewhere. I had the opportunity to partake and assist with a door to door survey in Nogales, Arizona. Most importantly, I was able to visit a tribal reservation, learn about health and customs, and learn about the culture. While in Arizona, other memorable events included travelling with classmates to go hiking and seeing lizards crawling around Arizona.

I found a great mentor that I had the opportunity to shadow before his retirement. Through Dr. Samuel Hawken, I was able to witness a total knee replacement and the procedure in which they only replace the cushion between the already replaced knee. Being in the office, I was able to see and learn about injuries I had not known about such as a Listanc fractures and its history.

6. What is your favorite book? The PACT because of how the young boys overcame adversity and become who the doctors they are today.

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam because of how it the book had a dog and allowed me to appreciate the military and further my interest in wanting to be part of the military.

Code Talker because of how it allowed me to expand my cultural competency and appreciation for the Navajo.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.

-Broke clavicle as a baby through birth. Am double jointed.

-Want to be pursue medicine through HPSP or transition into the military for the air force or army.

-I was placed in ESOL classes in second grade despite being born and raised in Fairfax, since I learned Spanish first.

-My long-term goals are to build up enough mileage and run a marathon.

-My bucket list includes travelling, sky diving, skiing, and jet skiing.

-My dog, Thumper, is my best friend/brother.

-On my grandparents’ ranch in El Salvador, I have milked and herded the cows. I have fed the pigs. I have used long bamboo sticks to whack my mangos down from the trees.

-Even though I stopped doing gymnastics since I was in 5th/6th grade, I can still do a round off backhand spring (Summer 2019).

-My middle name is “Lucero” and means shining star.

-I know how to drive a manual car.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? I still have trouble with this answer since I could come up with multiple answers. First, I believe I could potentially be a good physical therapist due to my background in sports. Another option could be becoming a biomedical engineer. I enjoy the team aspect and problem solving. I found this interest through take an introduction to bioengineering course where during the semester, it was my group and I’s task to make a prosthetic hand. Our final design included wood, fishing wire, garden glove, and string. Through any path option I take, I would want to ensure I find a way to continue tutoring or mentoring students. This is something I have been doing and it is amazing being part their journey in helping them understand information.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? As mentioned in my introduction, the biggest obstacle as a pre-med has been the journey itself. In chemistry courses, my grades are not the best reflection of the time I spend studying or of who I am as a person or prospective medical school applicant. This is a big obstacle more of in the long run when I apply to medical schools. I have been overcoming the mindset of “not being strong enough of an applicant” by remembering that I am more than a test score, grade, or being a cookie cutter applicant. I overcome this mentality by having goals that are specific to myself and learning along the process. I continue remaining positive. I also continue finding mentors, individuals, and opportunities that interest me and help me become who I am meant to become.

10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? I am fortunate to have across Diverse Medicine as I received a flyer about the Pre-Med talks while at SHPEP. I enjoy how engaging the platform is with real people and how willing people are to help each other or share their perspective. Thank you to Dr. Dale and to others! The webinars also assist me with gaining greater knowledge that I might not already be aware of such as medical schools, scribing, etc. 

Saying Goodbye

Last night I said my final goodbye to a beloved patient.

I’ve had my fair share of loss of family members, close friends, and patients but somehow this was a bit different. This was a sweet 86-year-old woman with a lovely daughter who was always present by her side diligently taking notes. The patient was one of the first to welcome myself and my (at the time) fiancé to their small town. She told me about her years working at the local Catholic school where her children and grandchildren attended. She was excited for me when I got married and was ecstatic hearing that my wife became a teacher at that little Catholic school she spoke so highly of. She showed up when we moved our clinic across the street from our ancient 1950’s building into a brand-new building.

As I walked into the hospital and made my way towards the elevator, I began to feel unprepared. What would I say to her family? How would I console her crying daughter. What prolific last words do you leave with a patient crossing over to the other side? Maybe she had already passed.

I walked into a dark room seeing my patient fast asleep with her daughter by her side. She was under hospice care with comfort measures in place. The patient had suspected metastatic esophageal carcinoma and elected not to undergo surgery. Solid foods were discontinued 4 days ago, intermittent confusion was setting in and now it was only a matter of time. She was in the active phase of dying. 

Her daughter saw me and immediately embraced me. She proceeded to tell me how well her mother was taking things. It’s almost like she bypassed the whole Kubler-Ross grief cycle. The patient had made her rounds seeing all of her children and grandchildren. As her condition deteriorated, she decided to spend her final days in the hospital so she wouldn’t burden her loved ones. “She is ready to go Dr. Daniel”, her daughter said. “Mother has been singing songs and laughing with us. She has planned her whole funeral and even picked out the songs we will sing. She’s going on her own terms and even told the Chaplain this morning she was ready to meet Jesus.”

I held tears back as her daughter explained to me how fond the patient was of me. She wagged her fingers and warned me that her mother would hush anyone who cried in her presence and demanded they step outside. This was a sobering experience. In any other world, our paths would have never crossed. I am a young African American male, city boy and she is an elderly Caucasian woman of a different generation who grew up in a small town. It’s kind of cool when barriers like this are broken. 

Medicine allows us to intimately know other human beings. To be by their side from cradle to the grave. Medicine exalts humanity and has the ability to unify. It is interesting to see one’s soul before leaving this world. They can’t take anything with them but they can leave a lasting impression and a legacy. I learned no matter how many times you say goodbye you can never prepare yourself to say that final one.

I told her daughter it was a great privilege caring for her mother over the past few years. I held my patient’s hand and told her I hope to see her again in heaven one day.

May she rest in perfect peace.

More Than a Doctor…I’m a Filmmaker!

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!

Congratulations to Nicole! Student of the Week!

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. 

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