1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Armelle, and I’m from Cap-Haitien, Haiti although I came to New Jersey when I was eight as an international student. I am a junior at Georgetown University double majoring in Biology of Global Health and French. My hometown is the biggest influence on my career as I plan to return to Haiti as a general surgeon, and I also have hopes of informing health and hospital policies there. I enjoy sleep, food, languages, and the outdoors; fun fact, I binge watched bushcraft videos all winter break, and I totally feel like I can survive a deserted island now.
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
I’ve had many favourite instructors, but, after reading this question, my fourth-grade teacher came to mind immediately…so we’ll go with her. My time with Ms. Pijack was the first time I remember actually LEARNING as opposed to simply following along with assignments. Each day, she would have someone in the class pull from the “word jar” so that we could learn big words each day. I learned words like poltergeist and -to tie it back to pre-med- deoxyribonucleic acid (later in college, I would learn the chemical structure that led to this name). Ms. Pijack challenged our class immensely, giving out prizes to students who did things like memorizing all 206 bones of the body (guess who won that challenge). While I had decided to be a doctor well before meeting her, my love for science deepened in Ms. Pijack’s class. I am constantly finding that the new knowledge I acquire in college ties back to her class, and each time I am thankful I had the opportunity to be taught by her.
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?
In my head, the memory is of a Sunday on our way to church, but I know that the day I remember is, in fact, a compilation of many such Sundays. Actually, every Sunday until I was eight.
Our church was only three blocks away so my family and I would walk to mass. On the way, we passed a raised sidewalk where a number of homeless individuals slept, and each time I scrunched up my nose at the foul smell that surrounded them (and that I still remember vividly). We’d cross the street and I’d forget about them and their cracked feet that peeked from makeshift blankets that were too short. On the way out of mass, many more, often the same ones from the sidewalk, would gather on the steps of the sanctuary, hoping that the Good Word had inspired churchgoers to be generous. I began saving the change my parents gave me for offering to pass out to them after church. Of course, it was never enough, and I carried their begging eyes and low murmurs home with me until the next Sunday.
There were many people in my life who were in the medical field including many aunts who were nurses, an aunt who was the director of a nursing school, a cousin studying to be a doctor, and family friends who were doctors. Perhaps this acted on my conscience when I looked for a solution to the heartbreaking conditions I was witnessing. I thought that if anyone, physicians would be able to improve the living conditions of the poor, and I had resolved to be that doctor. Although, I have since learned that the lack of health care was not the cause of their homelessness and poverty -but that relationship between the two is more so reversed- my resolution to become a doctor remained.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
As with my decision to become a doctor, my area of interest is highly influenced by my desire to work in Haiti. Right now, I would like to be a general surgeon although I have strong interests in health policy as well.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
I was able to practice sutures a couple months ago, and, while I found it frustrating to open the needle holder, I was elated about the experience. I was even able to keep the sample I sutured!
6. What is your favorite book?
Can’t say I read much for leisure anymore, but this past Winter break I did manage to sneak a book in. I believe there might be an English version to the book, but it’s titled “Les Identités Meutrières” by Amin Maalouf. The book speaks of the clashing of identities, particularly for expats, and I was able to resonate with much of the text. It has given me a lot to think of concerning my identity as well as the language to express how I feel about it. Highly recommend!!
7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.
Most people would actually know that I am very picky about my food. A little less known fact is that I like bananas but not anything made of bananas. Same thing with peanut butter. But the relationship is reversed for watermelon – I like watermelon flavoured things, but not watermelon.
8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
Nothing! But, practically, probably something related to medicine and public health. I could also potentially see myself following in my mom’s footsteps in real estate, but I can’t imagine being happy being so far from medicine.
9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
The older I’ve gotten, the more uncertain I feel about my future and my ability (both innate and circumstantially) to follow through with my goals. I’m not one that likes to ask for help much, but my goal is to be frank enough with myself to do that.
10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?
I love the communal feel of PreMed STAR! The premed coursework and path can often feel lonely, and even when there are other premeds around you, the underlying competitive sentiments keep us from being honest about our failures (and successes) sometimes. Love having other students and professionals in the field with who to interact.
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