1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello everyone! My name is Oumou Fofana and I’m going to be a senior biochemistry major at the Ohio State University. I am Guinean-American and the oldest of five children. I was born in Brooklyn, New York but lived in Columbus for most of my life. I tend to be pretty introverted and shy but will use my voice when I think it’s most needed. Some things that I am involved with include being a president for a student organization called Ladies of Leadership, which is a mentoring program for women of color, a peer leader for a general chemistry course, and a research assistant for the microbiology department at OSU. In my free time, I like to read and watch mysteries on ABCs 20/20
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?My favorite teacher in college would have to be my biochemistry professor, Dr. Ottesen. She was the first female professor I had in a STEM class and was really inspiring to me. During her office hours, we would talk about imposter syndrome and the difference between an intelligent person and a hardworker. She really motivated me to continue with my major and told me that instead of looking at biochemistry as a barrier, I should look at it as the playground that it is.
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? It’s really hard to determine when I decided I wanted to be a physician but I think it started when my mother, who was pregnant at the time, got into a severe car accident. Although I was really young during that time, that incident sparked in interest in me for a career in the healthcare field. When I got a bit older, I did more research on different professions and medicine just stuck out to me. In college, I joined MAPS and that gave me the chance to meet medical students and physicians to determine if medicine was something that I wanted to do. I love how there are many specialties in medicine and how you can always learn more as a physician.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Growing up, I always thought that I would want to be a gynecologist because I was interested in working with women and newborns. But after shadowing an internal hospitalist, I would like to consider that specialty as well because you can interact with a variety of patients who have different diseases and disorders. My interest might change when I get to medical school and I’m open for that.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?So this experience is not directly related to medicine but in order to talk about it, let me give some background. So as a Guinean-American, I struggled with my dual nationalities. What made it more difficult was the fact that a lot of people would confuse me for being Somali. My parents really tried to instill the Guinean culture to my siblings and I but because most of our family members do not live in Ohio, it was hard to embrace it. In college, I joined the African Youth League, and I was surprised by the diversity of the African students there. Each year, they have an event called African Night, in which students are allowed to showcase their culture through art forms like spoken word, singing, dancing etc. The best moment for me was when I participated in the flag walk. I honestly felt emotional holding the Guinean flag and wearing my traditional West African clothing because I felt like I was paying homage to my ancestors before me and finally accepting that my dual nationalities were a huge part of my identity. Now, I love learning more about Guinea and read about it whenever I get the chance.
6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. It’s about the journey of a girl named Amari and how she ends up becoming a slave in the 1700s. The story has many twists and it definitely keeps me up at night sometimes. I see myself in Amari and the strength that she shows in the many trials that she faces inspires me when I am faced with obstacles in my own life. 10/10 would recommend anyone to read it.
7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I really do not think I’m that interesting but one thing that surprises people about me is that I am a phlebotomist (really tricky word) and draw blood from patients. Most of my coworkers have been doing it for at least 10 years, so it was difficult for me to become one since a lot of my patients did not want their labs drawn from a rookie like myself. But I love connecting with my patients and learning a bit about their life stories. I always laugh when I come into a room and someone says something like “The vampire is coming to get your blood today.”
Another thing a lot of people do not know about me is that in my family there has to be at least 7 Oumous. This is because my grandmother is named Oumou and her children (she had 8) decided that their first daughters would be named after her. So there’s an Oumou Fofana in Guinea, France, Canada, America, etc.
8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? That’s a good question and one I think about a lot! But I think I would definitely be a teacher because I like explaining things to students and seeing their improvement as the year progresses. I think I would especially love teaching younger children because of their sweet innocence and curiosity. I also considered becoming a librarian because I love books and recommending them to people.
9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? The biggest obstacle I (and many other premeds) face is comparing myself to other people. When I was in high school, a lot of my peers did not want to be a physician so I did not feel the need to be competitive. When I entered college, that was a different story. Everyone seemed to be doing something that I was not doing like amazing research, study abroad programs, internships, etc. So naturally, I felt intimidated and doubted my ability to pursue medicine as a career. But after talking with a friend one day, she told me that everyone is unique in their own experiences and that my journey is going to differ from someone else’s. Basically, I shouldn’t let what someone else does affect my dreams and aspirations. Even though I will always struggle with this, I know that the only person I should compare myself to is the person I was the day before and that I should continue to be a better version of myself. I think being different is an incredible thing and I know that I want to use my unique perspective and experiences to contribute to the medical field.
10. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine? I love Diverse Medicine! I like reading about the other students on this website and the many posts that some of the doctors share. I was introduced to it during the application bootcamp and love the initiative that it has. I’m extremely grateful for Lauren Kanzaki, who has helped me a lot in the application process and Dr. Dale who has been an incredible support system for me. I tell all my pre-med peers to join it because it is such a great platform to connect and know people.
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