Student seeking African American Mentor

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    I am an African American pre-med student attending a small private jesuit institution in Ohio. The majority of students in pre-med studies at my school are of caucasion descent. I feel as though I’m treated like an outsider. My parents aren’t physicians, and I don’t drive a Porsche to my classes. It’s discouraging sometimes. I’m seeking a mentor who is understanding and encouraging.


    Hi Princess,

    I’m not AA, but I am female, which you will find carries an additional set of challenges for you, and I went through undergrad on full Pell grants, thus I also was not ‘privileged’.

    Are you at Xavier? (I noticed the Ohio/Kentucky connection). U of C used to have a premed alliance called Caducea, which had members pretty representative of the community there in Cinci. Lots of helpful speakers, advice and what-not.

    I’d be happy to help in any way I can.


    Yes, I’m in Cincinnati. You must be a very detail oriented person. Thank you for offering your support. What kind of surgeon are you? I’m thinking about going into dermatology.

    What exactly is Caducea? Can anyone attend?


    Hi Princess,

    Good to hear from you.

    I’m a Chief Resident in General Surgery, so in my last year of a five year training program. Just starting my job search; my husband and I have our sights set on the western US. I did my undergrad at U of C, my medical school at Ohio State. Some of my med school classmates were from Xavier. They described it as being a little ‘cliquish’ at times, but a very good education.

    Caducea is a premedical alliance, club really, that was organized out of UC. It was a great source of information and support, and looked sort of nice on your med school applications. I believe that I recall folks from Xavier attending meetings on occasion, so I don’t think it was a UC only type deal. Our president at that time was a really sharp gal, who happened to be AA.

    What year are you currently in? Are you pretty locked in on medicine at this point? I gather you are from Ky. Small town?

    Have a safe fourth. Talk to you soon.


    Hi! I look foward to getting a response from you. How are you? The fourth of July here was crazy! I knew for sure I’d get lit up by some crazy firework.

    I’m a first year. I took a few summer classes and decided I’d wait until August to actually begin. I need my summer to, sort of, transition. I need to spend time with my family. I’m young, but I know what I want. Throughout high school, the health field was my environment. Half of my day was spent in hospitals shadowing physicians and nurses. It’s such a thrill and excitement for me. There’s so much opportunity in the medical field. You can go as far as your mind can take you.

    Gosh, it’s awesome getting to talk to a female physician. Most of the doctors in my town are male. Actually, I really don’t think I’ve met a female doctor!

    By the way, I’m from a small town in Kentucky. I live right on the border of KY (northwestern)/ Indiana.

    Xavier has a pre-med club also. I have to wait until August to join. I’ll look into Caducea.

    Q: Whey didn’t you attend medical school at U of C?

    Q: Is it true that you work 80+ hours during residency and make only like $3.50 an hour?

    Q: What was your major?


    Hi Princess,

    I’m wiped out. I’m in the middle of a 72 hour call shift. Went to work at 7am yesterday, thinking I’d quickly see my patients and be home by 9am. Immediately started receiving trauma alerts, code blues, calls from the ER…Turns out I was there the whole day, up all night, did 2 laparoscopic appendectomies (both ruptured), a kidney transplant, a traumatic leg amputation, repair of a complex facial injury, admitted 5 trauma patients and 4 general surgery patients, intubated a patient on the floor, coded two patients in the ICU and one in the CT scanner, plus too much generic stuff to recall. Finally got a shower and some grub this morning, and feeling much nicer.

    I interviewed at Ohio State for my first interview and liked it tremendously. They accepted me the same day, so I never followed through on the remainder of my interviews. OSU was, in my mind, more progressive, with a more interesting mix of students and philosophies, while UC I knew to be very conservative and traditional.

    Yes, it’s true that residents work that much, probably surgery residents in particular. Eighty hours would be a very light week for us; the most I ever worked was 128 hours in one week. Ninety to 100 is probably average, in my program. We make about 35K to 45K per year, depending on what level of training you’re in.

    I was a double major in undergrad: philosophy and biology, but I ended up 3 credits shy on my philosophy degree.

    So, you were going to take summer classes and decided not to? What are you thinking of majoring in?

    Talk to you soon.


    Hey! You sound pretty busy.

    Thanks for informing me about residents. So when (what year) do you actually get to perform surgeries? I didn’t realize it would be completely hands on. I’ve always pictured a resident standing behind the physician jotting notes.

    I’m currentley majoring in chemical science.

    What part of the western US are you interested in? My younger brother wants, so bad, to settle in California when he gets older 😎 . I know it’s still early to think about medical school, but right now I’d love to go to Northwestern University in Chicago. I love the east coast, though I’ve never been to the west coast.

    Do you have children?

    Princess 🙂


    Hi Princess,

    Ugh, I’ve been too busy lately.

    You pretty much start out in the operating room from the get-go. Everything is very heavily supervised at first, and as the years pass you have graduated responsibility. Most programs have some version of a ‘chief service’ in which the chief residents work up, perform surgery, and care for patients independently, with staff only becoming involved peripherally and on an as-needed basis. That’s an important step in your maturation as a surgeon, since from the moment you graduate you are on your own (unless you elect for further training).

    We’ve been looking at Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming….We like mountains and wilderness.

    No kids yet. We had several miscarriages during both medical school and residency, so we may end up adopting at some point, but I’ve decided to get my training over with first.

    You’re right. The east coast is great. Chicago is a very fun city; my sister-in-law lives there.

    Chemical science? Eeeek! Too tough for me. I went for the biology classes – much easier.

    Do you have your schedule for fall yet?


    Q: Do you have to make straight As in order to get accepted into medical school? Do you have to take honors?

    Q: Is it hard to be married while in medical school?

    My classes for fall semester are chemistry, chem. lab, biology, bio. lab, theology, and math. I did a lot better in chemistry than biology in high school. Chemical Science at Xavier is identical to pre-med/ natural science the first year. It’s just after that, natural science gets more into biology vise-versa. I might end up changing my major, I dunno.

    I’ve been reading this book called “M.D. Doctors Talk About Themselves”. A lot of physicians, especially surgeons in this book talk about the stresses of being a physician. Reading this book is enough to scare anyone away from being a doctor.

    I want to become a Dermatologist because I’d personally get so much satisfaction out of helping someone overcome insecuturities, as far as his or her appearance. I was thinking about plastic surgery, but I know I’d get so annoyed with fifteen year olds wanting breast implants or something. Anyway, the book states that the satisfaction is almost completely smothered by malpractice lawsuits, HMO’s…all sorts of things. It scares me. Maybe I just need to be a little more optomistic – or just stop reading the book. 😉


    Hi again,

    Medical schools are a bit like universities – there is a very broad range of acceptance criteria. There are top notch schools – often private universities – that take only the best and brightest, there a excellent state university programs, there are less competetive MD schools, there are ostoepathic (DO) schools, and there are international medical schools. If a person is absolutely determined to become a physician, there is nearly always a way.

    In general, there are many more applicants than there are positions, so the idea becomes making yourself look as good as humanly possible in comparison to the other applicants. Most of the applicants will have very strong GPAs, not necessarily straight As, but solid high averages. There is an entrance exam, called the MCAT (medical college admissions test), which you must take in your junior year. Generally you want to score above average, and the higher the better.

    It’s expected that you will have made an effort to expose yourself to the field of medicine, through volunteering or some type of work, so that you have an idea what it’s all about.

    Other things can make you more interesting and appealing. Any achievements – research, awards, papers published. Even seemingly unrelated stuff like having competed in the Ironman Triathlon, or immigrated from Bosnia after snipers shot your parents, or started a woman’s shelter in your hometown, or won a Betty Crocker best new cake recipe award….you get the idea. African Americans and Latinos are both woefully underrepresented in medicine, so your ethnicity is a valuable asset that many medical programs actively seek out. Same for people from underprivileged backgrounds – like if you are the first one in your family to ever attend college. Those perspectives are valued in medicine.

    It is hard to maintain a marriage, more so in residency than medical school. It really helps in a medical marriage if the partner is very sacrificing and very understanding. It’s definately not a 50/50 deal.

    You’re right, there are a lot of frustrations in medicine.
    You know how, if you ask Kyle Petty or some racecar driver about how they ended up racing, they always say that they just KNEW. They loved to drive fast, every since they could remember, and they never wanted to do anything else.
    I think for many physicians, that’s what it feels like to be a doctor. It’s more a passion than a job, and you can’t imagine doing anything else. So you go through hell and high water.

    Those are nice reasons you list re: your interest in Dermatology. The work hours are good too.
    We have a joke in medicine:

    What is a dermatologic emergency?
    A doctor’s wife with a rash.

    So in other words, there really are no dermatologic emergencies, and you get to sleep in your own bed every night.

    Talk soon.

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