Opportunities and Role Models
I'm from Roanoke, Virginia, a smaller city. There were no doctors or nurses in my family, but my pediatrician influenced my interest in medicine. I applied to college and went to the University of Virginia for undergraduate school. There, I decided to become a pre-med student and focus on my goal of going to medical school.
No one in my immediate family had graduated from college, so it was a very new thing for both me and my family. With no mentors prior to going to college, I was fortunate that my peer adviser at UVA took me under her wing and recommended that I join the undergraduate chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). That gave me great support in my efforts to go to medical school.
In my fourth year at UVA, I attended a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration event at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The keynote speaker was a UVA medical school alumna, Dr. Vivian Pinn. She had been the only woman and the only African American in the class of 1967. She talked about the struggles that she encountered and the opposition she sometimes received from her own classmates. She later completed her residency in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, joined the faculty at Tufts University, where she served as assistant dean, and became the chair of pathology at Howard University. She was also the founding director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health.
I felt an instant connection to Dr. Pinn, because not only had she gone to UVA, but she was also from a smaller city in Virginia and she didn't have many mentors when she was applying to medical school.
After graduating from UVA in 2011, I decided not to apply to medical school right away; instead I wanted to gain more experience in the field of medicine. Remembering Dr. Pinn's words kept me encouraged on my journey — she lifted barriers for women and minorities interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Because of her story, this goal seemed more attainable for me.
I took three years off from school and worked as a scribe in the Emergency Department at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Working with physicians and residents, I gained great mentors who encouraged me to continue pursuing medicine. I was accepted into the Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) program in 2014, and matriculated into medical school the following year.
I've had great support and mentoring here at Drexel. When you start the DPMS program, you are matched with a DPMS "Big" — a first- or second-year medical student who has completed DPMS. Your Big is someone who checks in with you and makes sure that you have the resources you need for your classes.
"Now in my last year of medical school, I am applying for positions in pediatric residency programs. It's humbling to think of how far I've come, and I know that the support that I've received has played a large role in this."
Then in medical school, all first-year students receive a Drexel Big — a second-year student who volunteers to offer guidance and academic support as students embark on coursework. It was nice because I still had my DPMS Big informally and a new Drexel Big. I also could reach out to upperclassmen who had completed DPMS if I had any difficulties with my classes. In addition, I've gained great faculty mentors who have supported me by providing career guidance and advice on becoming a great residency applicant. Now in my last year of medical school, I am applying for positions in pediatric residency programs. It's humbling to think of how far I've come, and I know that the support that I've received has played a large role in this.
Over the years, I've remembered the great mentoring I've been given, and I decided to give back. I have served as a DPMS Big, a Drexel Big and a Peer Mentor throughout my time at Drexel. I'm still involved in the SNMA, and I was elected co-president of Drexel's chapter in my second year. One of our primary goals was to make SNMA more visible within the student body, and to have more participation from students who might not describe themselves as minority. I've also been involved in the SNMA regional board over the last two years, and I'm currently serving on the event planning committee for SNMA's Annual Medical Education Conference in April 2019. I'm excited because Philadelphia is the hosting city, and the Drexel chapter and the regional board will be able to participate in a more meaningful way.
Dr. Pinn's story still serves as a great inspiration for me, and all the challenges she faced and overcame continue to encourage me as a medical student. So during my third year, when I saw she was being recognized for her accomplishments and receiving the Marion Spencer Fay Lifetime Achievement Award here at Drexel, I had to attend the event. I finally had the opportunity to meet her, and it was beyond amazing. I remembered seeing her when I was dreaming of becoming a doctor. In talking to her as a medical student, I felt that my dreams had come full circle. It was remarkable to tell her the difference she made in my journey to medicine.
She told me that one of the most important lessons she learned was to let opportunity guide you in your career — to seek opportunities to learn, to mentor, to volunteer. Some of her biggest accomplishments seemed to be smaller opportunities when they were proposed to her. Then they developed into something greater — bigger than she even imagined they could be. And I'm ready to take on the next opportunity.
— Jasmine Preston, Class of 2019
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