Hometown: Westmoreland, Jamaica/Queens, NY
Undergraduate: Stony Brook University – BS in Biology
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself before you came to the College of Medicine?
Before coming to Drexel, I completed my undergraduate studies at Stony Brook University, where I majored in Biology. After graduation, I took two gap years so that I could better prepare for my application to MD/PhD programs and gain more experience in the lab. During that time, I worked as a research analyst at Stony Brook University Hospital, working on various projects in the department of gastroenterology.
How did your undergraduate academic and research experiences prepare you for the MD/PhD program?
During my undergraduate years, I got involved in research, which is where I learned about the differences between a career as a scientist and a career as a physician, as well as how much both careers can be integrated. I was selected to be a scholar in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), which meant I received support to participate in research during the academic year and over the summer. Additionally, I was an active member of the New York State Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), which offered me the opportunity to engage with the STEM field and various researchers. The faculty mentorship provided by these programs in combination with the support of my previous lab, allowed me to present my research at local, state and national conferences. These experiences were instrumental in my preparation for the MD/PhD program.
Can you tell me more about that research experience?
During my undergraduate years, I worked as a student researcher for two years in Dr. Lina Obeid’s laboratory at Stony Brook University. The lab is interested in bioactive sphingolipids and their role in inflammation and cancer. Being a part of that lab was my first exposure to planning and executing experiments on my own. It was also where I started to learn how to analyze data.
After graduating, I worked as a research analyst with Dr. Ellen Li’s lab. This experience was especially transformative because I held more responsibility and also was able to interact with patients. I consented patients for our fecal microbial transplantation study and followed up with these patients for up to a year after the procedure. Through other projects studying the gut microbiome and the role that it plays in intestinal inflammation, I learned some molecular science techniques and became more proficient in applying the scientific process to my work. The opportunity to be a part of this lab allowed me to further understand the saying “from bench to bedside,” as many of our studies were translational. Working in this collaborative and integrated environment was helpful in my preparation for the MD/PhD program.
What drew you to medicine in general, and to the College of Medicine specifically?
I was drawn to medicine because of my experiences as a patient, and as an observer of the healing that takes place. Being in medicine is so rewarding because we learn to have an active role in the well-being of patients as a whole and to create solutions that provide better health outcomes.
Something that drew me to the College of Medicine was the commitment to the community. Drexel is very involved in the Philadelphia community and students take an active role in caring for those around them. I wanted to continue my education in an environment that allowed me to engage and care for those in our local communities, but also our integrated national and global world.
What sort of work do you want to do following the MD/PhD program?
This is still something that is evolving as I learn more about where my interests and education can take me. I am interested in working with patients in a clinical setting in combination with conducting independent translational research studies. Additionally, I am considering potentially working in advocacy and shaping health policy.
What kind of research experiences have you had so far during your M1 and M2 lab rotations? What research concentration area are you leaning toward and why?
I completed my first research rotation during summer 2020 in the department of pharmacology with the Gaskill lab. My interest in this lab focuses on the role of dopamine in neuroinflammation and disease pathogenesis in the central nervous system and the periphery. Although this was a virtual rotation, I was still able to be involved with the lab members and attend lab meetings, plan future experiments, and present a peer-reviewed article at a journal club.
I am leaning more toward immunology research because I am fascinated by the robust response of the immune system to infection and disease processes. I am also interested in understanding the mechanisms of how immune and inflammatory signals can be dysregulated, leading to disease development, and potential ways that we can intervene in this process.
What kind of support have you gotten (within the Drexel community and beyond) that has helped you manage the demands of early medical school and your work in research labs?
I have received a lot of support from various places in my transition to medical school. Our program directors for the MD/PhD program have been very helpful in deciding when to set up rotations and what labs may be a good fit for my interests.
The more advanced students in the program have also been very helpful. They have provided advice and taken time to offer their thoughts on matters like small details to consider when looking for a lab or balancing academics and life.
Within the College of Medicine, the academic support office has been very instrumental in helping me manage the demands of medical school. The support from the office has helped me to adopt study strategies that optimize my time and allow me to retain the large amount of information that we are learning.
What are your relationships like with your MD Program classmates, and with your fellow MD/PhD candidates?
I have a great relationship with my MD Program classmates. My cohort is very collaborative and supportive of each other, and this creates a better environment for learning or asking for help. I also find that we have a good rapport and a high level of respect for each other. Additionally, I have a great relationship with my fellow MD/PhD students. We look out for each other and provide advice and support when needed.
What organizations, extracurriculars or community service experiences have you been involved in at Drexel? How have they impacted your experience here?
I sing with the College of Medicine’s acapella group Doctor’s Note, and I am a student interviewer for the Office of Admissions. I am also an academic coach and a gross anatomy med scholar coordinator. Additionally, I am a student representative to the MD/PhD steering committee and a treasurer for the Drexel chapter of the American Physician Scientist Association (APSA).
Through my involvement in these activities, I have been able to meet some very talented and inspiring classmates and faculty, as well as serve as advocate on behalf of my peers. There are so many ways for Drexel students to get involved and find groups that they enjoy, which is amazing.
What advice would you give to someone considering the MD/PhD track?
My advice is a reminder that this process is a marathon. It is a long training and it can seem easier to give up or to feel discouraged along the way. Keeping the goal in mind and celebrating the milestones along the way helps with staying the course and being focused. Keeping a spirit of resilience, especially in the face of adversity, will also help get you to your self-defined finish line.
Another piece of advice would be to utilize the resources available to you. There are times where a conversation can be the solution to an issue you have been struggling with. There are so many people and programs in place to help with your success.