For Raidizon Mercedes, MD Program Class of 2023, being named a 2020 Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship winner was something of a full-circle moment.
Raidizon Mercedes, MD Program Class of 2023
“What the selection committee was looking for the most was for applicants to highlight how we plan to impact the Hispanic community through our work in health care,” Mercedes said. “And that’s part of what drew me to medicine in the first place, what made me want to become a doctor.”
The National Hispanic Health Foundation chooses 15 to 20 scholarship winners each year from a pool of applicants studying medicine, nursing, dentistry and more, and who have a proven commitment to serving Hispanic patients. In a personal statement, scholarship applicants outline what drives their dedication to providing high-quality health care to the United States’ Hispanic community.
“I’m originally from the Dominican Republic and grew up with parents who knew limited English, so I often acted as an interpreter,” Mercedes said. “When I was in college, I worked with Baltimore City’s Hispanic community; it really struck me how happy patients were to see someone they could relate to and speak to without having to worry about facing barriers to care. It highlighted the need for more physicians who patients can relate to, and that’s what keeps me going every day.”
After earning a BS in Neuroscience and Cellular and Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University, Mercedes worked for two years as a clinical researcher at Hopkins Hospital to expose himself to more clinical opportunities ahead of pursuing a medical degree. Mercedes spent about a year doing clinical research in urology, an area he’s now considering as a specialty in part because it combines clinical and surgical work.
“It also really highlighted some other issues I’d like to address, like the idea that some men are more likely to see a doctor for sexual dysfunction than for heart problems,” Mercedes said. “Through urology research, I came to understand that some of the issues men seek treatment for can be caused by systemic problems, for instance diabetes, or liver disease. As a urologist, you’re able to screen for those things and get patients the help they might have been neglecting.”
After Hopkins Hospital, Mercedes took the MCAT and was admitted to the College of Medicine’s Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) program, a yearlong Master of Science degree program which serves talented students who are underrepresented in the medical profession.
DPMS was not only part of Mercedes’ route to the MD Program, but also offered opportunities to be mentored by faculty members who supported students as they worked toward their goals. There’s a mentoring component to the Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship, which Mercedes was looking forward to.
“It’s so helpful any time I can talk with someone and learn what it was like to go through third-year, or to apply to residency,” he said. “There’s no one in my family who is a physician, so I’m eager to meet someone through the National Hispanic Health Foundation who can advise and guide me, and I’ll know they’re doing it because they want me to succeed.”
Mercedes gives prospective medical students who are underrepresented in medicine the advice that their presence in the field is especially important to patients; when patients know their doctor fully understands and perhaps shares their culture, the doctor-patient relationship is more comfortable and more effective.
“If you’re considering medicine for any reason, don’t let anything deter you from it,” Mercedes said. “There’s a good chance the medical field needs you and what you can do for it.”