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The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Blog On Allyship: A Conversation with Dr. Bradford Jameson

Bradford Jameson, PhD
Bradford Jameson, PhD

June 28, 2022

In the two-part blog series, “On Allyship,” Lara Ronan, MD, talks with members of the Drexel University College of Medicine about what allyship means to them, and the role it plays in their work.

Dr. Ronan is a professor of Neurology as well as the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health, our West Reading campus.

In the blog post below, Dr. Ronan speaks with Bradford Jameson, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and co-director of the Interdepartmental Medical Science (IMS) program. He is the course director for Molecules to Organs and the thread director for Biochemistry for first-year medical students. Dr. Jameson is also the course director for Medical Biochemistry for the post-baccalaureate program.

Lara Ronan: Can you tell us a little bit about your role here at the College of Medicine?

Bradford Jameson: I am professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I have been teaching at the College of Medicine for a really long time and I have also been very engaged in our post-baccalaureate, pre-medical and pre-health program programs. And because I was course director and in charge of the Biochemistry thread during the fall, it was stressful, it was a lot of hours, and I couldn't be in two places at the same time, so this year I am focused on the post-bacc programs and Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS).

 These students are some of the finest human beings that I know. They are absolutely, positively motivated to do this, and absolutely passionate. 

DPMS is one of the programs that’s nearest and dearest to my heart. What we're doing is we're looking for students from underserved communities. Their applications are reviewed by the medical school admissions committee; when the students are accepted into DPMS they are provisionally accepted into the College of Medicine if they can get a 3.2 grade average or higher and get their MCAT scores up to a certain level. It is a real challenge for the students, because I am giving them first-year medical school curriculum, which means it moves at the pace of medical school and requires a new set of study strategies and study skills. I spend a lot of time with them because I think biochemistry may be the most challenging course that they get, and I absolutely keep it at the pace of medical school because the objective is to prepare them for an MD Program. I don't let them fall through the cracks. I will spend time with them outside of class. I give them what we call the independent learning modules or ‘ILs,’ but I will help facilitate their study strategies, especially since most of the exams are going to be about integrating these basic pathways into a clinical setting, and this is not something that's intuitive. So I work very closely with them, and it has to be one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. These students are some of the finest human beings that I know. They are absolutely, positively motivated to do this, and absolutely passionate.

Lara Ronan: So, you're doing great work with this program, and this program is bringing new people into medicine who might not have been there through the usual pathways. In your role, you’re acting as a major ally by default, but I would be interested in hearing how you define allyship either in what you see your role to be or how others might define what you're doing.

Bradford Jameson: I view it as allyship, because in my view, what I'm doing is adding diversity and improving the quality of our student body by helping bring in different perspectives. Our students in DPMS come from communities that have been underrepresented in medicine and faced different types of societal inequities.

Lara Ronan: You had a variety of other activities that you were focusing on, but when you got overwhelmed and decided to pare things down, why did you pick working with DPMS students to be a main focus of what you do?

Bradford Jameson: I think I can make the greatest difference with this as a primary focus. The DPMS students have had to deal with systemic challenges. By helping them along to gain study strategies, to start working on clinical reasoning -- if I give them a biochemical pathway, is that foundational for becoming a physician? It is absolutely not. But the ability to take that and integrate that into a clinical situation for a unique outcome is the basis of a differential diagnosis. So, by helping them develop these skills, I’m preparing them not only to be in medical school, but also to be high quality physicians. They are compassionate and caring and will be among the best doctors.

Lara Ronan: That’s great. As you've developed your skills in this area and your goals, are there particular writers or sources of information that you've used to develop your thinking around allyship?

Bradford Jameson: Not really, because I do it by instinct. I mean, it's an empirical process, and I do feel that I improve at it every year. One of the DPMS students who I worked with had so many difficulties getting study strategies together, and somewhere halfway through the year everything clicked for her. As a medical student, she acted as TA for DPMS for two years. She was one of the best resources, because she understood the other side of the program and understood where the students would go. She helped me, as well. I think one of the most important things she taught me was that the key is not going after all of the details, because you can't, it's too many details. Instead she said, ‘If you can take it and explain it to another person, it means that you know it.’

Lara Ronan: Absolutely. I always say the person giving the lecture is going to learn the most in any class, right?

 By helping them develop these skills, I’m preparing them not only to be in medical school, but also to be high quality physicians. They are compassionate and caring and will be among the best doctors. 

Bradford Jameson: Right. So, in terms of resources and whatnot, my own students are part of my resources.

Lara Ronan: In your opinion, how might the College of Medicine boost or improve allyship across the board?

Bradford Jameson: The hardest thing is getting them to hook up. The faculty need to be willing to step up. The students have to be willing to say, ‘I've got a problem.’ My medical and post-bacc students, they’ve fought so hard to get here, and they’re so reluctant to admit that they have a problem.

Lara Ronan: Have you found any tricks to break the ice there?

Bradford Jameson: Anybody who says that exam anxiety is not a real thing hasn't watched the students. That's usually where, when I'm going over the exams with the students, it becomes clear to me that they know the material. Once I see that, then the gap is usually because they're having issues with anxiety. That’s the best time for me to reach out and help.

Lara Ronan: Excellent. So, do you find any ways that people who have had more advantages in life and are coming into medical school might be able to do more, as far as being allies for folks who’ve faced bigger struggles to get there?

Bradford Jameson: I’ve thought about this. Mentorship is such an important thing. I would love to have some current MD Program students meet my DPMS and post-bacc students to talk with them about medical school. Because they get mentorship right now, but the mentorship is from the alumni, and I would love to see that diversify.

Lara Ronan: That’s great. Was there anything else you wanted to say as we finish up our conversation?

Bradford Jameson: I think the amount of diversity that we've added to the student body helps create this -- I mean, think about our students and what they do. Medical school is hard, in part because time management is an issue. But despite the time management issues, do they get out, do they run, do they schedule, do they staff Health Outreach Program (HOP) clinics in underserved areas? Absolutely they do. And they recruit their peers to help run the HOP clinics. You know, that's the nature of our student body.

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