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? I 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. I 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? I 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!
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