I can’t believe it’s already almost the end of February. Like seriously, where did the time go?! If this keeps up, 2017 will be over before we know it! But anyways, with that being said.. HAPPY BELATED BLACK HISTORY MONTH Y’ALL! In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to get a bit more personal and share more about my medical school goals and my experience as a black woman in medicine.
I’m part of a track at my medical school that focuses on urban undeserved populations. There’s 24 of us in this special cohort and it is very competitive to get accepted into this program (I think my year was a little less than 2% acceptance rate, which is crazy). This was my first choice program because the proof was in the pudding. The students and administration of this program are genuinely committed to alleviating healthcare discrepancies in urban undeserved communities in Los Angeles and I’m humbled by getting an opportunity to learn and help participate in this mission.
My cohort and I have extra requirements in addition to the requirements of the regular medical school class. We are required to do a year-long research project, write a thesis, and although it’s not required, we are expected to stay involved in the community in some way shape or form (as long as it doesn’t interfere with academics). Despite the extra requirements, I love this program and I’m so humbled and grateful to have an opportunity to learn with and from my peers.
Although I am at my top choice program, my path to medicine hasn’t been perfect. I’ve had several people try to convince me not to be a doctor and truthfully, I think this has a lot to do with my race and gender. For instance, even AFTER I was accepted into medical school, one person told me not to go and to forfeit my seat and do something else. The crazy part is that he had no issues supporting a few males on their journey to medicine, even after he told me to give up on mine. Others confirmed his advice was biased and he didn’t have my best interests in mind, but thankfully, those situations have been few and far in between and I have discovered amazing mentors and advisors along the way.
If you’re a minority or woman in medicine, it can get discouraging. For instance, my male peers have shared that they have to explain to their patients and others that they are NOT the real doctor meanwhile, my female peers and I are constantly having to explain ourselves and the fact that we are real medical students and not volunteers or some other role. While it can get frustrating being a minority physician in training, I know it will be worthwhile in the end. I get inspired by hearing stories of awesome female and minority physicians who do great things. It encourages me to know that there are others who are thriving in situations where is no one else who looks like them or they are the only one of their gender on the team.
So what’s in the future for me? As I mentioned before, I have always been passionate about working in underserved and minority communities. More recently, I have been excited by healthcare systems and finding innovative solutions to tackle issues in healthcare (think health tech/ digital health/ entrepreneurship). I know I want to practice to some degree, but I have other things in store for my MD degree. I know this path is not a commonly traveled one and as a black woman I’m likely going to have to forge my own way. But I love a challenge and I’m excited to spend the next few years learning, growing, and hopefully making an impact.
My goal for sharing this today was to highlight that being a minority and a woman in medicine isn’t easy. But I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything in the world because they’ve helped me grow into who I am today. Whether you’re the only minority in your med school class or you’re the only female surgeon in the operating room, I hope that by sharing bits and pieces of my journey I can inspire you to overcome your obstacles and not allow others to place limits on your potential.
P.S. I couldn’t let Black History Month go by without highlighting White Coat Black Doctors, an organization created by a group of UNC medical students. One of my best friends is one of the founders and I’ve been following their journey from the very beginning. It’s crazy to see how much they’ve grown from a small organization to a national movement supporting Black physicians and medical students. If you are a Black medical/ premed student or ally then definitely check out their site. They have a bunch of different shirts and accessories for current and future doctors. Their items also make great gifts for a doctor/ future doctor in your life. Also while you’re on their page you should see if you are eligible to apply for one of their scholarships!
Happy Black History Month!!