Literally thrown into a multiple-gunshot-wound trauma surgery on her first night shift of surgical clerkship, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) fourth-year student Alyson Morgan retells the story as if she’s still in the midst of the three-hour, emotionally charged, fight-or-flight situation in which the attending massaged the patient’s heart while she was armed to assist with gauze and hemostats. Her ability to remain calm in a high-stakes environment further solidified her passion for the specialty. But now, like every other year during her medical-school education, Alyson isn’t focusing on career options for next July but rather on how to continue giving back.
“It’s very compelling to listen to other people’s experiences and try to figure out ways to better understand their situation, their culture,” she said about her recent mentoring efforts with the Native American Pathways Program, part of the Office of Diversity at the prestigious Mayo Clinic Alex School of Medicine. Alyson assists undergraduate students interested in medicine with navigating the basic sciences and preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). “I have my boots on the ground, ready to help those coming in behind me who may not have the same experiences or opportunities, and to help glean success.”
Growing up in Washington, Alyson lived amongst Native American tribes but remembers most staying on the reservation. Now, she’s assisting her childhood neighbors just like she did in 2017 with her classmates. Walt Franz, MD, from Mayo Clinic’s Department of Family Medicine, recently sent an email to RUSM leaders applauding Alyson’s efforts to support underrepresented groups as they pursue careers in health care. He noted her current role with the Native American program as well as years ago when she mentored students who were displaced after Hurricane Maria.
Making Time for Others
“She graciously took the time to share her experiences despite her intensive schedule, and as student leader of the Ross University student cadre,” he wrote. “Thanks to the faculty at Ross University in providing her with training and mentoring which has developed her expertise and professionalism. We hope in the future to attract her attention for post graduate training in the field of her choice.”
Alyson has been an active leader in the RUSM student government association (SGA), and until COVID-19 hit, was providing health care assistance to refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. as part of the Refugee Health Alliance in Tijuana, Mexico. She has been exposed to many different cultures and is always searching for ways to assist; medicine seemed like a logical pathway.
After earning dual bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology as well as a master’s certification in addiction studies, she enrolled in medical school, following the route of many family members including her sister, brother-in-law and boyfriend who are all pharmacists. “I am a curious person who wants to give back without needing anything in return. That’s the life to live; that’s the goal.”
Fueling Her Drive, Finding Peace
The faith-driven, sports-loving, foster-cat mom loves to spend time with family, to decompress and recharge. As she prepares for residency applications, another process altered by COVID-19, she’s determined to maintain a positive outlook.
“We won’t be as exposed to sites so it will be more of a blind choice. As students, we hear a lot of exasperation about how society is handling the pandemic. We anticipate a lot of work and different emotions to navigate. We have no idea what’s going to happen and how long it will be this way. We have a lot of questions, uncertainty and uncomfortableness in the unknown but we also have to find the beauty in that. We just have to mentally prepare to go out there and do what’s needed — to care for our patients.”
Appreciative and Thankful
We appreciate Alyson’s work to nurture the career aspirations of students underrepresented in medicine and we honor her commitment to the continued well-being of our RUSM community and support during this unprecedented time.