Nov 15, 2011, 12:00 PM, Posted by Danielle Wright
Danielle Wright, a 2005 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project L/EARN program, is now working toward her MD and MPH. Here she offers her perspective on the need to help a diverse range of students succeed in medical school.
I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was in middle school. There were no doctors in my family or physician mentors available to me in those years, but that didn’t matter to me. By the time I was in college, I figured I was good to go. I was headed to medical school to become an obstetrician. I knew I had to take specific science classes, take the MCATs, get letters of recommendation and maybe even do some summer programs—no problem. It wasn’t until I actually started preparing my application, around my junior year, that I realized I was lost. I knew what to do, but I didn’t really know how to do it. I was overwhelmed by the number of applications, appointments and forms. I quickly discovered that there were a lot of potential pitfalls in the medical school application process.
Getting into medical school is difficult for even the most capable applicant, regardless of background. But, the process becomes even more challenging if you are a member of a group traditionally underrepresented in the medical profession. Not because there is anything different about you as a potential student, but because not that long ago, medicine was a closed, elite club. That means that if you hit a wall in the application or academic process and begin looking for that trusted role model, mentor or advocate, there’s seldom anyone there to show you the way.
Fortunately, as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University, I found ODASIS—Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences—a program for minority students interested in the health professions. ODASIS not only provided the guidance I needed to apply to medical school, but advice on how to succeed in my career. Next, I participated in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project L/EARN. The program was very important to me for two reasons. First, I was introduced to medical research and public health and I realized I loved them both. After the program, I changed my major from biology to public health and decided I wanted to become a researcher as well as a clinician. In addition, I had no idea that questions about conducting medical research would come up in my medical school interviews, but they did. Thanks to Project L/EARN, I was prepared and a stronger applicant than I would have been without participating.