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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