Nakia Allen-Berhan’s Non-Traditional Route to Medical School Leads to her Dream MATCH
Sitting in a morning lecture during her pediatrics tele-rotation on March 19, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) student Nakia Allen-Berhan couldn’t help but glance at the clock in anticipation of the crucial email that was en route. Once the clock struck 11 am, she stepped out to check the National Resident Matching Program® (The MATCH ℠) process results. Shock and disbelief took over as she realized she really did accomplish what she worked so hard to attain — she matched in her top choice general surgery residency program at Ascension St. Agnes Medical Group in Baltimore, Md., one of RUSM’s affiliated clinical sites.
“I was really, really excited, happy and tearful. I was just overjoyed and very grateful,” said the 45-year-old mother, who upon completing rotations that day, immediately ran to hug her two-year-old son, who she calls her “miracle baby.”
A Past Life In IT
Mother, wife, student, doctor are just a few titles that Nakia has owned over the years. A graduate of Cornell University, Nakia majored in chemistry and computer science; chemistry for her medical dream, computer science for her “back up plan.” Her first attempt at the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) did not go as planned, so Nakia entered the world of information technology and eventually climbed to management.
“I had a 15-year career in IT, but I just couldn’t give up on my dream of becoming a physician.” Ever since a young age, Nakia had an interest in medicine, specifically neurosurgery. She continued to stay involved in the field throughout her adult life by volunteering as a candy striper, reading medical journals, and completing medical coursework — all with the intention to one day revisit medicine.
“When I finally took the leap to start medical school, because I was starting a little bit later, I decided that maybe I should think about something like surgical oncology, which is less years than neurosurgery. That’s how I ended up pursuing general surgery, with the plan to have a surgical oncology fellowship.”
Passing on Pre-Match
Nakia faced an internal struggle when she learned that her parallel plan had pre-matched her into an Internal Medicine residency program in New York, where she completed her hematology track. She then had to decide whether to take the guaranteed route to match or gamble and attempt to match into her preferred specialty of general surgery.
Unsure about which path to pursue, she reached out to the Office of Career Attainment, the RUSM department chair of surgery, and the RUSM department chair of internal medicine for advice. “Everyone got on board. They all took time out to meet with me individually to discuss my concerns, my worries, my fears, and give me expert advice. It was really helpful in making my decision to continue my pursuit of matching into surgery.” Nakia hopes to inspire future candidates to leverage RUSM resources, to “go with their gut” and not give up on their dreams. “I just want people to know they can do it.”