White Coat Day - Harvard Medical School

Welcome to Med School

Wow, I can’t believe my first week of medical school is already over! I can truly say it was one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life. From white coat day to simulating trauma cases with high-fidelity mannequins, this week was full of excitement because it focused on “doctoring.” It’s the reason why my 199 classmates and I are here to begin with—we want to be doctors! If it was the intention of HMS to get us excited about our future professions, I say job well done!

Day One: White Coat Ceremony and First Patients

The excitement on white coat day was electrifying. After we donned our new, pristine white coats, we spoke a few words about ourselves and the class headed off to see our first patients. Day one, and we are seeing our first patients? Yes! There they were, two little girls sitting in the front of the auditorium, portraits of famed doctors peering down at them. Our class filed in wondering what could possibly be amiss with these two beautiful little girls. It turns out that these two young ladies had a serious genetic disorder called cystic fibrosis, which often leads to serious problems in the pancreatic duct and in the lungs. Those two little girls essentially served as our teachers for that hour, answering every question with great excitement. They not only taught us about cystic fibrosis, but they taught us about what it’s like to be a child dealing with a severe illness and participate in a clinical trial for an experimental drug. But whatever they taught us, —and they taught us so much, they did it with great style, enthusiasm, and candor. They were so giving, expressing their most intimate details of their disorder. It was interesting for me to see how personal the interaction between patient and doctor felt when viewed from the other side of the conversation. It’s as if they would tell me anything… All I had to do is ask. I learned that the patient-doctor relationship must be one filled with love, respect, and compassion. I’ll never forget them or their contribution to my education; they were fantastic.

Day Two: Boston Children’s Hospital

The next day my classmate Lulu and I were sent to interview a patient at Boston Children’s Hospital. This time it was only two of us. I was a little nervous walking into the room; I think Lulu was, too. We saw a new mother holding her four-day-old son, caressing his head gently.  Also nestled in her arms was an illuminated green pad. I thought that seemed a little odd, but I pressed on and we introduced ourselves. What happened next shook me to my core:  The  mother hurried to put her baby down on the bed, which had a bright blue lamp over it, so that we (two medical students in their second day of training) could “do what we need to do” with her son. It was then that I realized the immense power and responsibility that comes along with wearing that white coat. She trusted us, but I wondered why. The extreme deference she showed to us I thought was unwarranted.  We didn’t even know what those lights were for! As it turned out, the young boy had jaundice, and the wavelength of blue light helps rid the body of excess bilirubin. But we weren’t there to poke and prod the child; we were there to ask a few questions and gain some experience. We asked her what we could do to be good doctors, what advice she might have for us. She said simply, “It helps to smile.” I always do that, so that should pose no problem for me.

In interacting with these patients and others this week, I realized that patients are often our most important teachers. They bring with them wisdom that cannot be acquired from a textbook, medical journal, or endowed Professor of Medicine. They are arguably the most important part of medical education. They’re certainly the highlight of my day and the reason I’m here. I hope to continue to learn from my patients, so that my patients can benefit from the best care that I am capable of providing.

Onward to week two!

Devon and Family

It’s finally here!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s finally here; school starts tomorrow! It came so quickly. As I reflect upon my first week in Boston and anticipate the week ahead, I get even more excited.

Over the last several days, I have gotten to know many of my classmates very well through a voluntary pre-matriculation program called the First-Year Urban Neighborhood Campaign, or FUNC. This week-long program focused on service to the community and cultural awareness. We met for breakfast before heading off to the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club to teach minority students about science and show them how it can be fun. We conducted science experiments, built solar-powered cars, made Oobleck (which I highly recommend), built electrical circuits, and extracted DNA from strawberries. The kids also came to the medical school one day to experience seeing and touching human organs, viewing human cells through microscopes, and trying to assist a mannequin who was having a simulated asthma attack. Programs like this play an integral part in getting minority children interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, and I am so glad to have taken part in it.

After we left the children each day, we spent several hours discussing the –isms (i.e. racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, etc.). All I can say is “Wow!” We really hashed out the dirty details of some pretty charged issues. Not only did we learn a lot about each other, but we also learned a lot about ourselves. Although FUNC is unique to Harvard, I know that many other medical schools have pre-matriculation programs that one can participate in. I highly suggest them. They are not only extremely enriching experiences, but they provide great bonding time for you and your future classmates!

Although this past week has been one of my most enjoyable, it hasn’t been all peaches ‘n’ cream. I’ve been trying to balance FUNC with trying to find a home for myself and my family. Although this may seem like an easy task, it definitely isn’t easy in Boston. There simply aren’t many apartments on the market here and no leasing agents seem to have the time to call me back. I’m willing to pay nearly double what I was paying in Virginia Beach and more than triple what I would pay in my home town of Flint, MI, but I still cannot find anything! For now, a classmate of mine and her husband are allowing me to use their empty apartment. Although I am confident that I will eventually find a place,  I would do it much differently if I had another go at it. So, please learn from my mistake and take care of your housing arrangements as soon as you decide on your school; you won’t regret it!

Well, that brings us to today – the night before my first day of school. Today I’ve experienced the expected hodgepodge of emotions, everything from excitement to nervousness. I tried to relax by going to get some food in Little Italy with my lady, Adrienne, which was great. I also met up with some of my classmates to get to know some of the non-FUNCers. However, none of that seemed to subdue my constant focus on what lies ahead. It’s like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this very moment. I doubt I’ll sleep well tonight, but I’ll try because tomorrow is going to be a long day! We are beginning our orientation and starting our first class, Introduction to the Profession (ITP), a two week course. I’m extremely excited for our White Coat Ceremony on Tuesday, the second day of class, which I think is fairly unique in that parents aren’t invited. Altogether, I suspect it’s going to be a really fun and intense week. I can’t wait to let you know how it goes. Take care.

Devon ODU Graduation

Why the blog?

2

When the AAMC contacted me, I was delighted but very confused. Why me? What had I done? Was this some sort of set-up? Was this even real? But, as I thought about it more, the questions I started to ask myself changed dramatically. How could I use this opportunity to benefit others? What kinds of messages do I want to convey? How could following a person’s journey through medical school have benefited me? What are my responsibilities to disadvantaged pre-medical students? After much thought, I think I may have found my answers.

If you’ve read my bio, I think you have some idea as to why I am writing this blog. I’m writing this blog because it is my responsibility. I understand that I am an exception to the rules of socioeconomic class mobility in the United States.  So, sometimes people try to use my story to make the argument that disadvantaged populations just lack the necessary work ethic to become adequately represented in medicine. We all know this is untrue, but it continues to make the struggle for success that much harder for the underprivileged and marginalized populations of America. Thus, it is important to me to make your road to becoming a physician a little less rocky, so that together we may help to diminish the health disparities that continue have debilitating effects on the people of our communities. I want you to know that you have a place in the health care arena, and that it may be a rough road, but you’ll get there. I just hope this blog helps to make your transition into medical school a smooth one.

This blog is going to be about you − the reader, the pre-medical student. Although you will be seeing medical school through my somewhat narrow lens, this experience is yours because your experience is mine. I am you. I was where you are, and you will soon be where I am. I will be discussing the good, the bad, and everything in between. My goal is to give you an accurate look into your future. I want you to feel more adequately prepared than I do when you are entering medical school. This blog may be rough and rugged. It may make you uncomfortable at times. However, it will be 100% authentic. My thoughts, emotions, insecurities, accomplishments, and failures will all be laid out on the table. I am ready to embark on this journey with you; I hope you’re ready too! Next week, I’ll be participating in a pre-matriculation program called the First-Year Urban Neighborhood Campaign (FUNC). I can’t wait to tell you all about it.