When the list of available positions for the Black Medical Association (BMA) came out during election time last year, I was a little confused on which position I wanted to serve in. I talked with some of my now current BMA executive board members to determine which positions they would choose to see if one would simply “fall in place” for me. After reflecting on my passions and strengths, I decided to run for vice president of BMA. My job would entail mentoring and strengthening the pipeline by working with the Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students and the Black Undergraduate Medical Association (BUMA).
I am a recent BUMA alumnus (as I like to call myself) and the chance to work with my past organization and give back made me excited. There are not usually many direct opportunities to influence the communities that have shaped you but this was my chance to do just that. One day, Jasmyne Jackson (M4) approached me about an idea she called the Future Physician Summit, an event that would combine BMA & BUMA to expose middle and high school students to medicine. I thought this was a great opportunity to work with BUMA in another capacity and give back to our community.
I have been a part of BUMA since its inception my junior year in 2015. I remember when one of my good friends Tomi Ojo talked to me about her passion to start the organization for black pre-medical students on the University of Michigan’s campus. She felt this was needed because of the unfortunate reality that black pre-meds can sometimes get lost on the journey toward medicine. There are so many factors that play a part here but Tomi noticed, as did many of us, that the same friends with whom we began the pre-med journey were not the same ones with whom we would finish, since many of them changed their major or focus. BUMA would and has served the purpose of providing a space for black pre-medical students to uplift each other, provide resources for each other, give back to our community, and retain more black pre-medical students overall.
While African Americans are 12% of the U.S. population, the American Association of Medical Colleges reports that Black or African Americans represent 6% of medical graduates and only 4% of full-time physician faculty. Exposure to the field and retention of black students in medicine are very important for addressing this racial disparity in the physician workforce. In addition, building the confidence needed to achieve a medical career, providing impactful opportunities for minority students, and early mentorship are all key components to diversifying the field.
To address this racial disparity on all fronts, the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion, BMA and BUMA will be collaborating with Wolverine Pathways to put on the inaugural Future Physician Summit on Saturday, April 7th. Wolverine Pathways middle and high school students from the cities of Detroit and Southfield will be joining us on the medical campus for a day filled with college readiness activities, pipeline panel discussions, mission and vision workshops, a tour of the medical campus, and clinical skills workshops. We will be involving representatives from every part of the pipeline including physicians, fellows, residents, medical students and undergraduate students so Wolverine Pathways scholars can be exposed to the pipeline in its broadest sense.
The Future Physician Summit Structure. Medical Students are at the base and are key components to uplifting the rest of the pipeline
Another key aspect of the event is our “train the trainer” pedagogy. Under the guidance of medical students, the undergraduate students serve as the primary leaders and are responsible for the planning and execution of the Summit. This approach provides the undergraduate students with leadership opportunities and experiences that highlight the importance of service and outreach and in so doing, strengthening the pipeline.
The planning of the Summit has been a great experience so far for both BUMA and BMA students. We have all gained valuable experience necessary to further our careers as future medical students and residents, respectively. The BMA participants have benefitted from teaching clinical information, mentoring, supervising and developing skills that will translate in the role of guiding the success of medical students as residents ourselves. In addition to gaining medical exposure, the BUMA students have practiced event planning and task management, improved written communication, and sharpened their professionalism. Involvement in the planning process has motivated and prepared each level of the pipeline for the next step on their journey toward medicine.
The Summit Leadership Team from left to right: Back row: Tochukwu Ndukwe (M1), Hamilat Olaniyan (junior), Reginald Wilburn (freshman), Dara Watkins (senior), Jasmyne Jackson (M4); Front row: Kaela Brown (junior), Jolyna Chiangong (freshman)
Personally, I am very proud of the growth that I have seen with each and every member of the Future Physician Summit leadership team and I am excited to be a part of organizing and executing this event. As a black male of Nigerian descent, I have been given the opportunity to give back to Detroit, the city I was raised in, BUMA, and to other minority communities that surround me. Through my involvement, I hope that I can inspire minority students to choose a career in medicine similar to how programs and events that I have been a part of while growing up inspired me to choose this path. Building and strengthening the pipeline for minority students is my passion! I hope that the Summit’s structure will become the first of many of its kind!
The air is full of both excitement and nerves at UMMS, especially for the M4 students. We just found out on Monday if we matched, and Friday (tomorrow) is our Match Day. This means that at exactly 12:00 noon EDT, we will be handed an envelope that contains our life for the next three-seven years. You can read more about it here and watch some tear-producing videos. Luckily, UMMS always does very well in the match process! While it is hard to predict actually how I will feel at Match Day, I imagine that it will be a combination of excitement about finding out where I am training for the next four years as an Ob/Gyn, but also sadness that my best friends and I are being separated after spending nearly every moment together over the last few years. The friendships that you develop in medical school are truly ones that will last a lifetime. No one else will understand the process of medical school and the emotions felt through each stage as well as those friends.
In just four short months, I will begin my residency training. Throughout the last month, I spent time trying to prepare for crazy journey ahead of me. Along with my 11 classmates also applying into Ob/Gyn, we embarked on a month of intensive preparation for residency in the Ob/Gyn Residency Prep Course. This month included everything from running through obstetrical emergency simulations, practicing on low-fidelity cesarean section models, and learning how billing and coding works. We showed up every day excited to learn, engaged in the lectures and hands-on learning opportunities, and a little nervous that now more than ever before we really needed to know this information if we wanted to be good doctors for our patients. We generally had a full day of learning Monday through Friday, and there was never once a moment when I thought to myself “that really isn’t useful.” It has been my favorite month of medical school and made me even more excited to begin my career as an Ob/Gyn.
Practicing how to properly consent a patient for surgery. Dr. Marzano made sure to provide us with difficult situations!
Despite all of the amazing learning opportunities, the best part of the month was how supported I felt by my fellow classmates and the Department of Ob/Gyn faculty and staff. There were a lot of tears over worries about matching and maintaining a balance in our lives outside of medical school. However, these moments were outmatched by the moments of pure joy and excitement that we would get to do this the rest of our lives. It was a good reminder that we have learned more than a few things in medical school, and that we are ready to take this next step in our training. The Residency Prep Course has provided each of us with a strong foundation and has alleviated some of those worries about the first few weeks of our intern year. We were constantly reminded throughout the month that we will always have our Michigan family. Our last day of the course consisted of a potluck dinner where we were gifted with Michigan scrub caps and words of wisdom from current Ob/Gyn residents. I know that I will be reading those every night for the next couple of months.
On behalf of the future Ob/Gyn from UMMS, thank you to Dr. Morgan, Dr. Malone, Dr. Kempner, Dr. Marzano, Dr. Skinner, Dr. Bell, Erin Price and so many others in the Department of Ob/Gyn. You each have made us better physicians and better people. We cannot thank you enough!
Kylie Steenbergh, M4 and Future Ob/Gyn
This weekend has been one I have anticipated for a long time. It started two years ago, when scrolling through Facebook posts. One of my friends from undergrad was sharing pictures of her running the Glass Slipper Challenge at Disney World. It looked like so much fun, and I was hooked.
What is the Glass Slipper Challenge (GSC)? Well, as it’s now called, the Fairy Tale Challenge (FTC) is a challenge event in the Princess Half-Marathon Weekend in which participants complete a 10k on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday, and then receive an extra awesome-looking medal in exchange. At this point, I was gearing up to do my first half-marathon in about a month and the challenge sounded like fun (I was so naive).
After that first half-marathon, I did not walk normally for at least a week (my ankle did not appreciate crowned roads it appeared) and let the idea of the GSC/FTC go. I was not fully trained for that one, due to prelims preparation and my research that was ramping up in the month or two leading up to the race.
Over time, my enthusiasm for the FTC returned. (I quickly forgot about my vow to never do another half-marathon). I decided that I wanted to participate during my M4 year, as the more-flexible-than-M3-year schedule would allow me to properly train and complete the blockbuster event.
Training started off shaky, mostly because I was supposed to start thrice-weekly runs during interview season. I dutifully packed my exercise clothes and running shoes in my already bulging suitcase. I worked out once at my first interview. Oops.
Thankfully, I was much more diligent about my training once interviews ended and felt much more confident about my success. In this case, I defined success as the ability to continue touring the parks even after finishing the half-marathon. I was able to achieve that, even if my walk looked a little…off… for parts of Sunday and Monday. And, best of all, I was able to get a picture with Belle (my favorite princess) while wearing my Belle costume after the 10k!
My family and I had so much fun sampling Disney World’s newest rides and revisiting our favorite blasts from the past. I am so grateful for the medical school environment that allows me to pursue my goals, even if they are not medically related. I am also happy that the medical tent did not need to be a stop on our touring plan 😉
Training for a half-marathon can be similar to medical school – both involve a significant input of time and effort, and can sometimes make you wonder whether you want to keep going. But that’s what makes it even more exciting and rewarding when you push through and achieve more than you had previously thought possible.
This past weekend has been amazing, and thankfully helped me forget (occasionally) that rank lists are now finalized and all that’s left to do is wait. Fingers crossed for all the graduating med students out there anxiously waiting, too, and congrats to those who already learned their fate!
September 15th, 2017 was the magical day that our M4 class submitted ERAS applications for residency. I remember staying up until 5:00am with my M4 friend Bill Mallett ruthlessly critiquing, editing and perfecting our personal statements all that night. Although he applied in anesthesiology and I in plastic surgery, the application process is the same across fields, and refreshingly more streamlined than the medical school application. We ensured to hit “submit” before 8:00am that day so that our application would be time-stamped the same as all of the other early applications. The relief that followed was divine!
Me and my kiddos, Nathan, Harvey and Autumn (left to right)
If you didn’t know already, I have three children (that’s right, three), and you can imagine how tight our budget has been given that my wife is a homemaker and we live on medical school loans (borrowing maximums are only very slightly larger for families than for individuals). We had been saving up for interviews for over two years, but it still didn’t seem like we would have enough to pay for the nine interviews I attended. There were rumors that interviewing students would sometimes stay overnight with a UM Medical School (UMMS) alumni instead of booking hotels or Airbnb’s, but it seemed too good to be true–I always thought they must have had some sort of preexisting connection through mentors or some other means to make that happen. BUT, NO! It is so much more than that. UMMS placed Amy Chappuis, one of our staff, in charge of managing the H.O.S.T. (Helping Our Students Travel) program. Briefly, all I had to do was enter the dates and locations of the interviews I had received into my HOST website profile, and my name became available to UMMS alumni who had volunteered to host students. I only posted five of my interviews, because I had already made accommodations with friends and family for others. One or two weeks after posting, five alumni (that’s right, five!) reached out to me offering their spare bedrooms for my overnight stay during interviews. That is a 100% response rate!!! What’s even better is that as I visited them, each one was simply amazing in their hospitality; one host even volunteered as my personal chauffeur for the weekend (no Uber necessary)! No other students from other medical schools that I met on the interview trail had anything similar to this going for them as they interviewed…
My wife Jamie and I after an interview in Galveston, Texas
As a plastic surgery applicant interested in burn reconstruction, my application was very unique–and, because of its peculiarity, very well received at many institutions. I certainly experienced the “Michigan difference” on the interview trail; many faculty members that interviewed me had connections in some way with Michigan. However, just as soon as interviews came to an end, I found myself in Cartagena, Colombia with Healing the Children, a volunteer group of plastic surgeons led by Dr. Robert Gilman of our plastic surgery department. Dr. Gilman collaborates with a group from Harvard to take two chief plastic surgery residents each summer to perform cleft lip and palate, pediatric hand, and burn reconstruction at no cost for indigent patients. My role was to gather data for my IMPACT project (similar to a senior capstone project), for which I am researching the barriers to health care that recipients of these gratuitous surgeries experience in their local systems that drives them to seek humanitarian care. The local newspaper reported on our visit and caught me in action! For IMPACT projects, the school gives funding to students with big ideas: I applied for and received a $950 internal grant from the school to cover travel expenses. While I certainly worked my tail off, I also had time on our final day to make it to the beach. In the middle of February. 😀
Playas de Bocagrande, Cartagena, Colombia on February 17, 2018
Match Day is just around the corner–March 16th, to be exact! There is nothing quite like it. Far from a feeling of anxiety and dread, I feel very excited! Most of my friends agree with me that they would be elated if they matched into either of their top three to five programs. Thankfully, coming from Michigan, it is rare to not match at your top program, and exceedingly rare to match below your top three (or not match). What could possibly make this better? Well, just this week I received an e-mail from the financial aid office that a group of alumni had donated to help cover the costs of interviews for students, and that I (because of my financial need situation) was chosen to receive a $1000 grant!!! Wahoo!!!! Totally unexpected, yet at the same time totally consistent with my four-year experience as a University of Michigan Medical Student.
So, a little math:
~$500 saved through HOST program + $950 IMPACT grant + $1000 interview grant = the Michigan Difference (or, $2450)
I’m blessed. Go Blue!!
“I think it’s that squiggly line.” We stood huddled around a laptop in one of the library group study rooms, puzzling over one of the lecture slides, unable to tell which pink blob in the sea of pinkish-red lines in the microscopic slide was the red neuron. While racking our brains over the image, someone jokingly said, “I can imagine us looking back at this moment and laughing about it.” And he was right, somewhere in the whirlwind of our third year, a pink blob of cells had transformed from a meaningless jumble of shades of pink on a page to a meaningful decision on treatment choices.
Celebrating the end of M3 with friends
This transition has been bumpy at times – from struggling to navigate through an electronic health record on my first rotation only to scramble to learn a new system at a different facility, to deciphering medical acronyms, nervously presenting during clinical rounds, to trying to avoid contaminating sterile fields during surgical rotations. Nonetheless, at the end of my third year, the way I think about medical problems has fundamentally changed.
Yet I have to say, the more medical knowledge I learn, the more distant the memory of what it is like to be on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship – the side in which clinical outcomes and pretest probabilities do not automatically pre-populate and everything is a terrifying unknown.
“Joy, come over here for a minute,” my mom anxiously calls from downstairs. Her face had rapidly become swollen and increasingly itchy over the course of half an hour. It was a textbook case of hives (likely due to consuming some shrimp). “Take some Benadryl,” I unconcernedly counseled. The swelling eventually went down. Seeing my mom’s worried expression, it belatedly occurs to me that only a few years ago even the most benign conditions appeared threatening to me too.
Starting med school, I was overwhelmed by the colossal amount of terminology I didn’t understand. At that time, I remember our doctoring faculty smilingly telling us to treasure the moment. We would eventually become so accustomed to using medical jargon that we would forget what it was like to be a layman. He was right – we’ve come so far that it is hard to recall exactly what it was like to be us a year ago! Within a course of a year, once indecipherable squiggly lines have unscrambled into a message.
May of my senior year of college I was in a show called Deadsville. I remember standing backstage before our final performance trying to appreciate that this would probably be the last show I ever did. I loved doing theater – the check-ins, late rehearsals, camaraderie and silliness. I loved walking into a space and giving myself permission to let everything else fall away. That last performance I tried to acknowledge the enormity of my leaving behind something that I had invested so much of myself in over the previous eight years.
However, that sense of loss was to come slowly over the next three years. It came to me during my post-bac year at a puppet show when I felt dearly the lack of performance in my life, of abstraction, and language that pushes me. It came to me last semester at times when schoolwork seemed tedious.
A typical rehearsal night.
And then I auditioned for the annual musical roast, the Smoker, and it was like I was a theater kid again. Three nights a week I step into a character with a funny voice and goof around. I work in the shop, painting, using a jigsaw and chatting with M4s about what specialties they’re going into. The shop smells like paint, paint thinner and sawdust – things distinctly not of Taubman library.
Setting up Mendelssohn theater, preparing for tech week.
With that said, the Smoker isn’t an escape from med school but an expansion of what med school means. The show is all about medical school – it’s filled with allusions, references and inside jokes. Each character is a professor. The program includes a glossary of medical terms and professor bios for the uninitiated. The directors, actors, singers and dancers are all my classmates. One practices surgical knots in the corner, another reads Ob/Gyn case studies between scenes.
Suzie trying out Method Acting to get into character.
It has been strange and so fun to find such an intersection of my interests. My left brain and my right brain are both very happy (if not exhausted). During the day I’m memorizing reproductive anatomy, learning about the HPO axis, or practicing a physical exam. In the evenings I’m singing, blocking entrances and goofing around. At times, finding the energy to accomplish everything I need to has been a challenge, although Smoker rehearsals have certainly been more restorative than taxing. New friends, performance and creativity from so many people (costumes, set-building, the script, etc) goes a long way. It’s also fun to be part of Smoker traditions: I have Dr. Sisson’s white coat hanging in my closet safe from chocolate or coffee stains that have defiled my own white coat. I’ve learned much Smoker lore and even attended Smoker karaoke night.
Two of the Smoker Czars taking it all in.
With three more years at Michigan, I don’t have to worry this will be my last show.
You can see Christopher and the rest of the Smoker cast this Friday and Saturday at Mendelssohn Theater performing Harry Polyp and the Deathly Hematochezia. Buy tickets here: