Hometown: New York City
Undergraduate: Dartmouth College, BA in Biology and Mathematics
Graduate: Drexel University College of Medicine, MS in Biological Science (now Biomedical Studies), 2014
Dartmouth College, 2018 MD Candidate
When did you decide you wanted to go into medicine?
I'm originally from Ghana. My family moved here when I was 15 for economic reasons, but also for my sister who had medical issues—scoliosis—growing up. It was really hard for us to find medical care for her in Ghana. We tried for nearly six years, but it was very difficult.
When we came to the United States, we were able to see physicians who pointed us in the right direction. The doctors recommended surgery and within a year of being here, she had the surgery and it has completely changed her life. She's able to do so many activities now. Most of our life in Ghana was surrounded by my sister's condition and to have that removed when we got here was a really powerful experience for me and my family.
I was drawn to medicine through the experience with my sister. I knew I wanted to go to medical school and I felt like a post-baccalaureate program would help me succeed with that. I wanted to enhance my science foundation and to not feel like I was struggling while preparing for a lifelong career.
What made you apply to Drexel's Biological Science (now Biomedical Studies) program?
My family lives in New York City, so one of the first things I looked for was location. I didn't want to be too far from family. With Philadelphia being less than two hours away, it was an ideal place for me. I had spoken to my mentor at Dartmouth and he pointed out Drexel's post-baccalaureate programs. I did some research and found that the Biological Science (now Biomedical Studies) program fit my needs. It would allow me to refocus on some things I struggled with during my undergraduate years while also learning some new graduate material to show I'm capable of handling the level of work needed for a medical degree.
Are you in medical school now?
Yes, I'm in my second year at Dartmouth Medical School. I ended up getting eight interviews, but I felt comfortable at Dartmouth after having done my undergraduate there.
What was it like coming to the United States from Ghana at 15 years old?
It was difficult. I had friends who I grew up with in Ghana, in a town called Takoradi. I was really close with them and it was hard to leave them. We moved to the Bronx and it was such a different environment from Ghana. There were so many people. Life moved fast; people talked fast and my English wasn't all that great. I had to learn how to adapt to the new culture, and that took a while.
I came here and had to jump right into my sophomore year of high school without really knowing anyone. One advantage to that was having a lot of time to study and read books, which helped my English. I was able to graduate at the top of my class and was awarded a college scholarship through the New York Times. Each year they give scholarships to high school students who have been academically successful despite personal struggles and challenges.
What was your experience like outside the classroom while you were at Drexel?
I made a lot of friends at Drexel. Outside of studying, we'd get together for dinner and celebrate birthdays. We also had a giant Super Bowl party one year, which was a lot of fun.
I lived in a studio apartment near Queen Lane in Germantown. A few other students lived in my complex and we would walk to Queen Lane for the shuttle to Center City. It was a good way to save some money while I was in school, but you also feel close to everything.
Did you participate in any community service while you were at Drexel?
I participated in the P.A.L.S. (Promoting Achievement through Learning in Science) program. We went to a local middle school and taught biology classes. We found ways to make the class fun and showed the kids a way to enjoy science. It was also special to me because I could relate to a lot of the kids in those classes who were going through struggles at home, so it meant a lot to me to be able to give back.
I also helped with the annual Pediatric Aids Benefit Concert. I joined the cooking team and we helped provide food for the event.
Do you know what area of medicine you want to go into?
I'm not too sure at this point. I'm drawn to surgery because of my sister, but I'm still at a very early stage and I love everything I've been exposed to so far.
What advice would you give to current students?
When you're in the program, it may seem like a lot of work and even impossible to get through at times, but the payoff is huge. My first year in medical school was much more manageable. And that was largely due to the program at Drexel, especially the second year. For current students, I would tell them to remain focused in the program and do their best to keep with the pace.