Diverse by Intention
Dexter Graves, Class of 2018, knew he wanted to be a doctor from childhood. A high school sports injury brought him under the care of Darryl Peterson, MD, an orthopedist, who helped him hone that vision. Peterson was an alumnus of Hahnemann University School of Medicine and advised Graves to apply to its successor school, Drexel University College of Medicine. By the spring of his first year, Graves had founded the Drexel Black Doctors Network to build relationships between African-American students and physicians.
THE ROAD TO DREXEL
My mom is a PhD chemist and I was interested in science from a young age. When Dr. Peterson asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told him I wanted to be a doctor. He offered me the chance to come and work for him, which began a long mentoring relationship that continues to this day. After college, I applied for Drexel's Pathway to Medical School program because I knew it was an opportunity for minorities and would help me get into medical school.
BUILDING ON AN IMPORTANT LEGACY
Drexel has a history of inclusion. Back in 1980, Dr. Maurice Clifford was named president of another of Drexel's predecessor schools, Medical College of Pennsylvania. He was the first African-American president of a medical school that wasn't historically black. I recently went to a ceremony where his portrait was mounted outside of our lecture hall. I would like to see that tradition continue. There is still a shortage of black doctors in this country, and I want to make sure that black students have the resources and skills they need to pursue that dream.
CONNECTION AND SUPPORT
As a minority in medical school, the biggest challenge is that you feel like an outsider — it's not that students or faculty make you feel unwelcome; it's just that you come in with your own experiences that other students don't always share. I got involved early on with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which has always been a place to exchange ideas and attend events. Both that office and the Office of Student Affairs have been incredibly supportive of me, especially when I wanted to start my own group. The Drexel Black Doctors Network is a mentoring program that pairs black medical students with black doctors in the Philadelphia area. We're trying to give students a one-on-one connection with a professional in the field, along with research opportunities and other guidance or advice they might need.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
It's been important to me to be involved in the Student National Medical Association, working to help underrepresented students in medicine. I also mentored Philadelphia high school students through the Drexel Mentoring and Pipeline Program, which helps students who might want to pursue college, exposing them to the health professions and helping them develop career skills like resume writing and interviewing. I was lucky enough to have a mentor along the way, and this is how I can pay it forward.
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