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Life Outside Medicine

What if I told you there was life outside medicine? Cheesy, I know, but I’d like you to take a second to imagine the possibilities that await you when you attend a university such as Michigan—one that fosters exploration of all your talents. Well, if your imagination is still dulled from overindulgence this holiday season, I’ll try to paint a vivid, tropical picture for you.

The JerkxJollof team is a diverse group of past and present University of Michigan students with (or earning) degrees in medicine, engineering, social work and music.

Though romantic, I sought to examine this problem similarly to how we are taught medicine: holistically and sometimes seemingly paradoxically. But like any medication hoping to breach the market, this theory had to be explored before being put into practice. Michigan’s flextime quizzing gave me the opportunity I needed by allowing me additional time to frequent Toronto, a flourishing, unapologetically diverse international city that nurtured the concept of promoting diversity through celebration.

Realizing the need for such untraveled avenues, my friends and I set out to address the theme of celebration by creating a space where individuals could rejoice and learn about rich African and Caribbean culture. Borrowing the name from a past graduation event, JerkXJollof (pronounced Jerk and Jollof) was born. The name embodies both the Caribbean and African diaspora respectively through two native dishes: Jerk, a fiery Jamaican cooking style, and Jollof, a spicy West African rice dish. Through Soca/Afrobeat-themed parties we call “experiences,” we pride ourselves in sparking discourse with culture, cuisine and nightlife.

These community outreach initiatives are just one of the many endeavors I’ve been able and encouraged to pursue far outside the boundaries of traditional medicine. I can confidently say that here at Michigan, we’re not just cultivating doctors, but nurturing people because we are encouraged to explore the fringes of our curiosity and passions alike. It is these experiences and adventures trailing humanity, independent of the hospital, that often guides and provides the inspiration required to solve complex medical anomalies. Just like healing is more than physical, and life is busier than a single lane highway, there is more life outside medicine.

The team standing in the heart of downtown Detroit in business wear depicting the dichotomy between work and play.

Attracting more than 800 people, New Year’s Eve proved to be the largest experience yet. This stage view captures the crowd’s excitement as patrons anticipate the midnight countdown.

Happy New Year! A team of drummers is seen playing traditional African beats at the stroke of midnight.

JxJ rule number one: come as you are. While some patrons wear traditional outfits, others prefer a more casual look.

Guests are encouraged to bring flags, like the Ghanaian one pictured above, to represent the wide array of ethnic and cultural identities present at the event.

 

Kristian Black is a second-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. Hailing from Louisiana, he enjoys LSU football and all-you-can-eat crawfish. He can be followed on Instagram at @indiana_black.

The Face of a Nation.

The first step in addressing health disparities in minority communities is acknowledging they exist, but we can only expect to see significant progress when the physician workforce demographics matches that of the population it serves. We have to increase minority presence in healthcare, but how?

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“I’m no art buff, wine connoisseur, or genius; just fortunate, tenacious and a bit lucky.”

There are many barriers that block minority students from pursuing careers in health related fields spurring from lack of resources to the total absence of knowledge on the process of becoming a physician, but in my opinion, two of the biggest minority deterrents are the lack of representation and the social expectations of how a physician should look and act.

To unpack that last statement, many individuals of minority status are intimidated by the expectations that are synonymous with increased socioeconomic mobility of physicians; like the understanding of “highbrow” culture, politics, fine art, exotic cuisine—all of which usually require a certain level of status to interact with. In short, social constructs convince them that they aren’t polished enough for such a career.

I’m no art buff, wine connoisseur, or genius; just fortunate, tenacious and a bit lucky. To present myself as an example that any minority that “tries hard” can become a doctor is deceptive, and undermines the complexity of representation in medicine. And for that very reason I try to use social media to portray the many dynamic attributes that can comprise a future physician. Whether that means taking over the Umich Snapchat account on the behalf of the medical school, or rapping the lyrics to my favorite Curren$y song on Twitter. I want onlookers to realize that choosing a career in medicine shouldn’t depend on where you come from, your dialect, style of dress or customs—but whether or not you are committed and willing to serve mankind to the best of your ability.

So how am I hoping to influence the demographics of medicine? Using my social platform as a method of recruitment, all while challenging the status quo and revealing the new physician.

Kristian Black is a second-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. Hailing from Louisiana, he enjoys LSU football and all-you-can-eat crawfish. He can be followed on Instagram at @indiana_black.