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Student Organization Brings First-Gen Medical Students Together

July 17, 2020

A desire to help others, a love of learning, and skills like self-reliance and adaptability have gotten Daniyal Dar where he is today. Dar said he gained those skills along the path to medical school, navigating secondary education as a first-generation college student.

"Among my first-generation peers, I notice a lot of hesitation and apprehension when seeking guidance from authority figures, since it is such unfamiliar territory," Dar said. "I'd advise first-generation students applying to medical school to try to overcome that fear. While it's nice to be able to navigate different systems yourself, it's also more stressful."

First-Generation Drexel Medical Student Daniyal Dar As Dar progressed in his undergraduate education, he participated in tutoring and student advisory activities to help younger first-generation students. He's continuing that work as a member of Drexel University College of Medicine's First Generation Student Organization, a new student group that aims to bring first-generation students together – whether they're in their first or fourth year of medical school.

Dar and his classmate Diana Hanif Garces are working together to coordinate a mentorship program that will partner incoming first-generation students with first-generation upperclassmen.

"We're trying our best to make sure first-gen students don't come into medical school feeling lost," Dar said. "We're also hoping that in the coming years, we can start outreach to expand the mentoring program to include students from local colleges and high schools as well."

After graduating from an undergraduate program in physiological sciences, Dar volunteered at hospitals, helped with his family's business, and worked as an after-school instructor. His latter role, as a teacher, taught him to dive deeply enough into topics that he could explain them to others, which has shaped how he studies today.

Outside of the classroom, Dar is a student ambassador and likes to spend study breaks at the Queen Lane Campus ping-pong tables.

"The College of Medicine's academic rigor has ensured I don't lose sight of why I want to study medicine, and these extracurricular experiences have ensured I have fun along the way," he said.

He chose to enroll at Drexel because it fit his criteria with its diversity, community-centered education and friendly students. Dar was looking for peers who shared his dedication to education and his goal of helping others – and he was also looking for people who wanted to collaborate rather than compete.

"I want to emphasize the collaborative nature of our class, which is in stark contrast to my undergraduate experience," he said. "I feel comfortable exploring different fields with the support I need."

At present, the First Generation Student Organization is matching first- and second-year medical students for mentoring. Students looking to get involved as mentors, mentees or general club members can contact the organization's leaders on Instagram @ducomfirstgen.