Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Undergraduate: Delaware State University, BS in Kinesiology
Graduate: Drexel University College of Medicine, MS in Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS)
Ahead of Match Day, William Justice, MD Program Class of 2022, reflected on his medical school journey and his hopes for the future.
What drew you to medicine, and to the College of Medicine specifically?
Much of this motivation stems from my goal to help racially and ethnically diversify the physician workforce. As an African American man and a first-generation college student with aspirations of becoming a physician, this particular goal is especially important to me. I saw and continually see the need to confront the major health disparities that minorities, specifically those of African American descent, are facing. I believe that a major cause of such disparities exists due to a lack of health awareness in African American communities. This is a direct effect of underrepresentation of African Americans in medicine, and exemplifies why a diverse workforce is essential to being responsive to health care needs of the entire population. I plan to combat the number of health disparities and become a part of the solution by working within these underserved communities as a physician, increasing community members’ health awareness, and giving them the medical support that they deserve.
What organizations, extracurriculars, research or community service experiences have you been involved in at Drexel? How have they impacted your experience here?
I’ve served as a peer advisor and mentor for first- and second-year medical students, and I tutored in medical subjects. I have assisted with research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Disease. I was also a leader in the College of Medicine’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter, and I mentored students at a Philadelphia middle school. Finally, I founded the Heal Initiative, a health initiative aimed at increasing awareness of mental health and physical well-being in underserved communities and inspiring the development of long-term, health-promoting behaviors. These activities enhanced my experience, allowed my continued growth, and helped me maintain a connection with my community while studying medicine.
You were the winner of the 2021 National Medical Fellowship National Alumni Scholarship Award, a scholarship that helps support physician leaders who are committed to the health of underserved communities. What sparked that commitment for you?
As the youngest of seven siblings to a stay-at-home mother and a father who worked as a janitor, I was raised by parents who emphasized the importance of having a selfless spirit and giving to others. With this in mind, I structured my extracurricular involvement at the College of Medicine around serving my peers and being a leader in the Philadelphia community. Exemplifying leadership through service has become a lifestyle for me, from my undergraduate years through medical school. I can recall my mother reciting the old adage, ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’ to my siblings and I countless times throughout my childhood. As I continue to advance in my career, this statement gains increasing significance to me. It has and continues to inspire me to give back to the community in a multitude of ways.
What specialty do you plan to go into? What influenced that choice?
I was exposed to orthopedics after dislocating my shoulder twice playing football and basketball. In my experience as the patient of an orthopedic surgeon, I went from being hesitant to do a push-up or “high-five” my friends, to thrusting weights and lifting my nieces and nephews in a matter of months. A few hours of surgery have given me years of normalcy. The experience gave me a practical understanding of the difference orthopedic surgeons make when it comes to their patients’ quality of life, and that understanding gave me a large affinity toward the specialty.
Following my surgery, my interest in the musculoskeletal system grew immensely, which led to a curiosity about the structure and function of the human body. This compelled me to serve as an athletic training intern with the sports medicine team at Delaware State University, gaining direct exposure to orthopedic pathology such as ACL and menisci tears. These experiences, coupled with a personal calling of mine to serve others, have culminated in an ambition to pursue orthopedic surgery.
What lessons have you learned in medical school that you'll carry on into residency?
Professionally, I have learned how to actively listen to patients and to consider the many social determinants of health that impact all aspects of their care.
Personally, I have learned that things won’t get easier, but we will get stronger, better, more efficient and more resilient. In the meantime, it is best to enjoy the journey and cherish these moments with the people around you.
What advice would you give to current medical students regarding residency interviews and the match process?
Continue to give 100 percent in everything you do, enjoy the journey, and let God handle the rest. You’ve worked incredibly hard, and all your efforts will pay off.
How are you feeling ahead of Match Day? What are you looking forward to about the next step in your medical career?
I am feeling excited and confident about Match Day. I am most looking forward to beginning my surgical training and taking the next step in turning my dreams into reality.