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On-Demand Webinar: Thurgood Marshall College Fund
In partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, AUC/RUSM hosted a student panel discussion, entitled Increasing Access and Inclusion in Medicine: American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) and Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Paving the way for a more diverse medical workforce.
Thurgood marshall college fund -Transcript
David Belliard - Associate Director, Admissions - AIM
Hello everyone, thank you so much for your commitment today. To be able to find time, whether it be 6:00 or 5:00 wherever you are, to learn more about Adtalem and what we can offer you, in terms of an opportunity to pursue your medical school career here at Ross. I’ve been with the university for about five years now, starting off assisting students in the career development aspect of the university, helping students to put together a strong application for residency programs. When you consider a medical school, you want to make sure you choose a school that’s going to help you get to that point.
We have a 92% (2021) success rate for our students who pursue the match. I was a part of that team, helping students put together a strong application, where they'd be preparing them for interviews, helping them identify experiences and just beginning to help them identify what areas of medicine they wanted to pursue so working with students in that area for about 2-3 ½ years. I was able to begin working on an opportunity that would set the university apart from all the other universities, and that's to be more intentional about how we can provide access to students from minority institutions such as HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities, and we begin to identify that there are a lot of barriers of entry that impact students who want to pursue medical school. it could be a lot of self-efficacy; A lot of them may not think they can do it and then they look at the calls and they look at the MCAT score and they may not know about Ross University.
We want it to be intentional and we want it to be a groundbreaking university to provide access to our university by removing any financial barriers, so we started to align ourselves with top performing HBCUs to be our our foundation to begin to tap into these schools and begin to streamline our admissions process, and that's to begin to work with the advisors at the schools. From there, begin to work with the students and the pre-med programs or just students who are just curious about medicine and begin to work with them. The program has been in existence for about 2 ½ we’re had success with about 41 students in the program since its inception. We support our students from the time they consider Ross University and all the way up until they are accepted and we continue to support them all the way through.
Autumn Johnson, 2nd Year medical student
I’m excited to be able to talk about this experience. For me, being an AIM scholar and attending Ross, has been extremely helpful. For me, one of the greatest barriers that I had during my pre-med years was not doing well on the MCAT. I felt like that was the biggest, darkest cloud over my head. It was a struggle, trying to prepare for it. Just to meet the demands you needed to be successful on that exam one of the best things that I was able to learn is that's really not the only part of your application, that's not the only thing that makes up your profile as a student and it made me feel comfortable with the AIM scholars program and I just knew if this program gave me an opportunity, I knew that I would be successful, so I just was very, very thankful that I was able to be in contact through the AIM scholars program.
Q: Can You Talk About the RUSM Education Experience?
Johnson: I got my bachelor's degree in biology from Hampton University, and then I got my master's from Charles Drew, where I got my master's in biomedical science. I knew that I wanted to go to medical school. I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. I knew that I wanted to work in primary care and I knew that I wanted to work in an underserved community.
I'm from Los Angeles, California, specifically from Englewood, if anyone knows anything about it, but one of the things that I always involved myself in was community outreach, and that was kind of where my heart lies and where my passion is. So I attended Charles Drew, specifically because it is a black university in south Los Angeles and one of their main missions is community outreach.
I got my master's from Charles Drew and then I actually learned from my advisor at Drew about the AIM scholar program and how if I were to meet the criteria in order to be accepted into the program, I would be able to attend Ross University. I was really looking forward to studying abroad, obviously, like that's something that's huge, that has to be something that you would be comfortable with, that was something that I was excited about and I looked forward to it. Being Barbados, I always wanted to go to the Caribbean, so once I started to get more information specifically about Ross, specifically about the AIM scholars program, I just was so thankful because I felt like this is a program that's going to provide the access that students like me just do not have.
Here I am now in my second year and I'm thankful that I'm able to be on this type of panel and reach out to students and help students through their pre-med journey because I know that it's very, very demanding. It's very, very competitive and programs like this are needed.
Q: How do you get involved with the AIM program?
Belliard: As I stated earlier, the AIM program was really to provide access to students from
our minority-serving institutions or HBCUs and HSIs, but the goal was really to bring these students in and educate these students so we can be able to help improve the health outcomes in the communities that really need representation, so communities that look like myself and Autumn and our students who are currently involved in the presentation today. We wanted to be able to create a more diverse health workforce to be able to help or meet the needs of the American population. We knew the only way that we can get this done is to be intentional and to put our resources behind each student who comes through our pipeline and that's how the AIM program came about and this is how we're able to have over 10 partnerships with several different institutions because they believe in what we're offering and they believe in the resources that we have, whether it be students who are marginal students,
We can you know follow them through the medical education readiness program which is a great way for students to gauge themselves if they're able to even handle the rigors of medical school and we know that could be a financial barrier as well, so we're able to remove that through the partnership, making sure that our students have no issues at all. All they have to do is focus on their studies, and then of course with myself and the team that supports these students, we're able to track the students academic outcomes, and be able to triage any resources that they need if they're struggling.
We can be able to get a favorable outcome at the end of the semester, so the AIM program really focuses on giving students access and opportunity, but most importantly, to create a more diverse health workforce that will meet the needs of the people who really need representation in the health profession.
Q: Why do you feel diversity is important in medicine today?
Johnson: I can definitely answer that. I think, for me, from my personal experience, growing up, every medical encounter that I had, it was extremely rare for me to see someone who looks like me. Someone who is black. Someone who is a woman, a young woman, and I learned very quickly that one of the greatest barriers to patients achieving their best health outcomes is that lack of connection between them and their provider. That was my motivating factor, honestly. I just felt like coming from where I come from in south central Los Angeles, and being a part of different community outreach programs and helping organize health fairs and wellness fairs, I just felt like there is a community of people who are not able to access or attain their best health outcomes and I wanted, specifically, to become part of that space. I wanted to make myself available to these people and help my community achieve and attain the resources that are available to them. I think that’s one of the reasons why diversity is so important.
Then another reason, just from a medical student aspect, medical school is extremely demanding. Medicine is extremely competitive, and I think that it’s helpful to feel like you belong and being able to see people who have come from where I come from, people literally from my same elementary school, doctors from my same high school, doctors who I went to Hampton with, or Howard-Tuskegee. All of these prestigious universities, to be able to see them reach their goals and be successful in their fields and in their spaces-- I think that’s what’s important for a student like me. I’m like, okay, and when I’m in the trenches and I'm like “oh my god, this is just-- I’m in over my head.” I see those people that come from where I come from and I'm like “Okay, yes you can.” So, diversity, that’s why it’s important.
Belliard: You can go to a physician, and when you see that physician and know that physician looks like you, you feel more open to share what’s really going on. You know the physician will be able to empathize with that patient, and be able to maybe make the medical terminology more understandable, so the patient can understand what’s going on.
So there’s a lot of back and forth in that experience for the patient and that doctor, to help the patient continue to come back and continue to have care and that’s maybe a brother. Maybe that’s a mother. Maybe that’s a dad and you know that’s a life that’s being saved, versus someone who goes into the physician and they don’t really see themselves, they don’t understand what's going on, they don’t feel the person really understands them, and that continuity of care is not going to be there, so we know that representation is important because we know we need more people to look like us so we can trust the health care system and not be afraid of it.
That’s one thing, and the second thing is representation. The AIM program is intentional about that right now. We know that there’s probably less than two percent of the physicians in the world who are minority physicians. We want to be able to be more of a representation and be able to create more physicians out there, and we know that if you see a black doctor, or a hispanic doctor in your community, you’re going to be more willing to ask those questions. You’re going to be more willing to figure out how that person became a physician, versus not being able to see it, then you can’t achieve it. I think that’s what’s most important, being able to have that representation and that’s why diversity matters. Because if you don’t see it, then you can’t achieve it.
Q:As an undergraduate student, what steps do I need to take to ensure I will succeed in medical school and work to get into this program?
Johnson: I could definitely answer that. I will say, honestly, as an undergrad student, definitely focus on where you are right now. Don’t overwhelm yourself with stuff like wondering how you can put yourself in the best position. Work on where you are now. If you’re a sophomore, make sure that you’re doing your sophomore classes, or junior or senior. Personally, in my undergrad career I took some time off to study for the MCAT because I wanted to make sure that my undergraduate studies, I really had those disciplines under wraps and I wanted to make sure that my foundational knowledge was good, so I just made sure that when I was in undergrad I focused on that.
Something else I would say is as a pre-med student, the main thing that you are thinking about is the MCAT. It’s a very, very daunting exam, but you can best prepare for that if you’re able to recognize your discipline. Are you able to sit and focus and have your undivided attention on your studies, making sure that you’re completely focused on your studies. If someone has a specific question about impact I can go into that, because we could talk about that all day. I
I would just say that wherever you are in your undergraduate career, just make sure that you are doing the best that you can to make sure that your prerequisite classes have that foundational knowledge. I always felt like “Dang, they want me to be a straight-A student,” like everything I have to, if I don't have A's and B's, then it's just not going to cut it, but honestly, what's really important is to make sure that you really do have that foundational knowledge, because here I am today in my second year like “Oh my god, that's stuff from organic community what's important?” Things like that, where it wasn't just about making the mark and making sure that I got the A's and I got the B’s like I wanted, to make sure that I knew the the bare minimum, the foundational knowledge was solid because everything is built on that and if you don't have that it's going to take some time for you to build that. You just have to make sure that your foundational knowledge is good.
Another thing that I would say if I were to do anything different in my undergraduate career I would set myself up with a bridge program like AIM scholars because honestly, like I said, it's extremely competitive. You have an application for thousands of students that all look the same. Everybody's transcript looks the same, everybody's grades look the same, so if you know that you want to practice medicine, you know that you want to go to medical school, you know you want to be a doctor, you know that's the field that you want to be in, I honestly would advocate for setting yourself up with a program where if you meet these marks, if you meet the criteria, if your foundational knowledge is solid, you know you have a door open for you. Because let me tell you, just because you may not be successful at application year doesn’t mean that you're not capable. There’s just literally not enough room for everybody, honestly. So if you can set yourself up with a pipeline program, a bridge program like the AIM scholars program, I would do that from the beginning of my undergraduate career.
Belliard: Autumn, I think you're spot on with everything. Being able to start early in your undergrad experience, so if you're a freshman or a sophomore, you should know how to access
test prep, Kaplan resources when they're doing the Kaplan prep exams -- all those things you should know when and where they're providing those resources, because that's gonna be critical. When it's time to take the MCAT you want to be as prepared as possible. You don't want to be in your junior year trying to navigate this process, so the earlier you can connect with the advisor, your academic or career advisor, I think that would be helpful for you. I mean begin to align with your professors, know the opportunities, whether it be if there's a few clinics in the area that you can do shadowing.
I know right now Covid-19 has presented a lot of challenges for us, but as Autumn mentioned earlier, medicine is changing the way it provides care. So maybe you can volunteer in the clinic and shadow how they do telemedicine visits with their patients, or maybe you can volunteer at a Covid-19 site, being able to see how that process works. They're creative ways for you to begin to expose yourself to see if the field of medicine is what you want to do, if it's what you really want to do because the field of medicine is going to always change. You want to be able to see if this is something that you really enjoy and then understanding why is what's really going to push you through those tough times, as Autumn talked about in terms of her academic experience. Reflecting on, wow, she didn't know that organic chemistry would come back into her medical school.
What is that purpose that has led you to this point that you want to become a doctor and that's going to help you navigate this long journey and this continuous learning journey of becoming a physician, I think if you can focus on those things with the support and aligning yourself like Autumn said earlier with the bridge program, getting all the exposure and understanding all the opportunities to be able to become a physician will help you and make it less stressful. Because the earlier you start, the better it will be for you when it's time to graduate in your senior year.
Q: Can you describe your experience as a med student on the island? Are you able to receive family visits? How is life in Barbados, in general?
JOHNSON: Honestly, you spend a lot of time studying. I'm not sure if you are able to have family visits, but for me, I had my mom come with me before I started and we just kind of toured the island together. We met the welcome committee at Ross on the island, but it is very independent, once you get there. Obviously Ross is a community within itself on the island and um it's a very, very tight-knit community, so I'm not sure if you would need like your mom or your
dad or your brother or sister there on the island with you. You can obviously have those visits, but Ross in itself is a community on the island. I think just being able to surround myself with students who are doing the exact same thing that I was doing is really what helped me to be successful.
Studying on the island, Ross really provides a lot of spaces for you to study, so if you like to be outdoors or if you like to be in a library or if you are an independent student and you like to be
in your room or you like to be in your house, there are lots of spaces where you can study and be successful. Unfortunately, I was only on island for a few months and then Covid happened and we all had to come back home, but I do have some friends that actually went back to Ireland because they felt like that environment was more supportive of their learning, that learning environment was more supportive for their success. I'm definitely looking forward to going back, but yeah, if you do want your family to come and visit you, you definitely can.
It's a beautiful island all the time, when I was not studying. After an exam I took advantage of doing island tours, specifically in Barbados. I don't know if you guys have ever been to the Caribbean, but it's literally the most beautiful place. The people are extremely welcoming. It's a lot more slow paced and they really take care of that. They understand Ross students and what we're there for, and it really does feel like a home environment and so the times that I wasn't studying, I was able to do island tours with a lot of my peers. We were on the beach all the time, when we were not studying. I had some friends who studied on the beach sometimes. I don't know, that wasn't my thing but I wanted the beach to be my safe haven where I go to relax. There's just so many places on the island where you feel comfortable and you feel like it's very comfortable I guess.
I'm definitely looking forward to going back in a couple of months, absolutely. Get away from this cold weather up here.
Q: Do you have anatomy labs your first two years at school?
JOHNSON: Yes, and I love anatomy. I'm a very, very, very visual person, so if you put something in front of me and I can actually see it, I understand it better than you just telling me. Honestly Ross's anatomy labs are top-tier, you know? Everything is electronic. They went away with the cadavers, so we didn't get to work with those but everything is electronic and they have different lab stations, where you can learn ultrasound, you can do a lot of radiology. The lab is really superb. Our first two years in basic sciences we do a lot of lab work. The way Ross's curriculum is set up it's based on organ systems, so depending on what organ system you're in you will have a lab to support that. They also offer lab hours where if you literally want to go
into the lab and it's not lab time, you can go whenever you want and you can have a lab tech there to help you if you have questions and things, but I would say that was one of the things that really attracted me to Ross, especially because I'm a visual learner. I was like “wow, their
the anatomy lab is really, really good.” So yes, we do have anatomy labs and then we also have a clinical skills department, which is separate from the anatomy lab. That's where you learn your physical exams that you do on your patients. Like I said, everything is based on organ systems, so if we're doing cardiovascular systems then we're learning from the clinical skills department which is a whole separate department. We're learning how to do cardiovascular exams, or we're doing musculoskeletal system, and learning how to do those types of exams. So, yes we have a lab anatomy lab and then clinical skills department.
Q: Can you explain the student support system as students go through the medical program, for AIM scholars?
BELLAIRD: Once a student from our program applies to our university, I'm able to complete their interview and then from the interview, I kind of gauge the student see what their interests are, see where they are in terms of experience in the healthcare field and then I'll provide that information to the committee and the committee would identify whether our AIM scholar would fit, in terms of whether it be our medical education readiness program, which is our preparatory program to assess the students readiness for medical school; or the student meets the requirements to start directly into our medical school; so I'll be able to work with the student and make sure that at least they have the resources they need from being able to connect with the Academy for Teaching and Learning, and then being able to work with the academy to track the students academic performance to see how they're doing and if there's any red flags.
I'm able to reach out to the student and see what's going on specifically, right now. We have a lot of our students who are at home, and sometimes the environmental factors at home may impact the students academic performance, but for the most part, if it were if we were in regular times, just tracking a student, making sure that the advisors that we have on campus are making sure that they have the specific touch points with the students and making sure that they're successful and that they're checking in. Whether it be for a lab or for a particular area
in the curriculum.
Then of course, making sure the students have the resources that they need, making sure that they have a flight to campus. Making sure that they have a flight once they leave or get ready to leave campus. Making sure that they have their housing covered for the first semester, and
the second semester, if they're successful in the first semester. Making sure that they have the tuition paid, if they're in the medical education readiness program.
Then of course, triaging any issues that may come about. I call myself more than the advisor
because students, the AIM scholars will come to me with all types of issues. i'm there to support them and continue to encourage them, even though it may be difficult or seem impossible for them to be successful, so that’s my role.
Q: Can you give us secret tips for the interview and application process?
BELLIARD: Oh man, that's a great question the first thing is it's important for you to learn about
the institution, and have questions. Thoughtful questions will show that you're interested
and that you've done your homework on the university, because you have an opportunity to do that. So you want to be able to have those thoughtful questions.
For myself, or anyone that's interviewing you, the second thing is dressing professionally. Right now, we're doing everything virtual. If you're at home with siblings or if you have any type of distractions, you want to be able to make sure you can eliminate that. Whether it be someone in your home, in the background, anything that will be a distraction you want to make sure you eliminate that.
Be confident in your experiences. If you had any issues, any struggles along the way, be able to talk about how you overcame those struggles. Whether it be academically or personally, because as a medical professional, you're going to be a leader. You want to be able to make sure that you know you can understand what you did wrong and how you improved, and how you are improving your life and moving on. Those are the few tips that I can give a prospective student who’s interested in our university, who's getting ready to interview. If you can focus on those things, you should be okay.
Q: Did you have any specific role models before starting at Ross med?
JOHNSON: You know it's actually a really good question. I was working at Kaiser for a little bit
before I started medical school and it actually wasn't until I started to share with some of the doctors that I worked with that I was interested in medicine. Because I was an assistant there and I shared that I was interested in medicine, and that I was going to be starting medical school at Ross and surprisingly so many of the Kaiser doctors that I worked with went to Ross.
You're like “oh my gosh, you know I'm a part of the alumni network.” I think one of the biggest things for me about Ross was just how large their alumni network is and really taking advantage of that. So many people you know went to Ross and had a great experience
at Ross and so I would say for sure, being able to be in contact with those people and stay in contact with those people has definitely been helpful for me.
Then, just in terms of role models, not necessarily anyone that specifically went to Ross, but
for me, I know it's probably going to sound really cliche but all of my friends, who like I said, come from the same place where I came from, we've gone to the same schools together. We've gone to the same undergrad and things like that together, who are currently practicing physicians.
Those are my role models, honestly. Because when you're in study mode and you're doing the
day-to-day work and it gets overwhelming, it does get overwhelming, sometimes being able to see those people who have been successful, who are successful, who are working in their career, who are giving back to the community and doing the things that they set out to do -- seeing them be successful really is an eye-opening experience for me and I believe that those people really are my role models. Because you need to be able to see people who look like you, who are doing the things that you want to do and to see the work actually being done.
At the end of the day, this is a field of service. Your job and everything that you do is giving back, being very selfless and giving back to people who are in very, very vulnerable situations. It's extremely humbling and to be able to see people who I know personally have said they want to work in the community and give back to the community, seeing those people actually go back and do it, those are my models, I guess.
Q: What are some student clubs or organizations to get involved with on campus?
JOHNSON: when I started med school, I was so focused on trying to just make sure that I didn't take on too much responsibility. I wanted to make sure that I could handle the workload, because the studying and the hours are very long and I didn't join any organizations my first semester, but I will say that Ross is very big on -- if there's something, an organization that is not there, something that you're passionate about and there's not a club or an organization for it, you can start your own organization. When they told us that in orientation I was like “who was starting their own organization at medical school?” Don't forget to study but I have a lot of
friends who I started with who have started organizations. Just specific things, like now we're in this pandemic and we're working from home and a lot of students are extremely overwhelmed. Some students, like David was talking about, are in an environment where they're living with other people. It's difficult. There's a lot going on in this world right now, and a lot of people are
feeling it. I've had friends who have started Mindfulness Mondays or clubs where literally you just get together and you talk about the things that you're going through. A lot of people are doing mental health things. I have a friend who started a yoga club. If you are interested in organizations and clubs and there's something that's not there you can definitely start it and it is good because medical school can be a lot of independent learning. Joining a club may not necessarily just be about taking on extra responsibility, it might just give you an opportunity to be around other students you know and recognize that there's a lot going on, rather than just studying all day long.
BELLIARD: I agree, Autumn. I think joining a club helps you build more connection to the university, because if you're just in your own silo just studying, going to class, coming back home, then won't feel as connected to the university. That may impact your academic outcomes. You're around your other peers, you guys are enjoying your academic process -- that would only motivate you more to want to be successful, and that's one of the things we try to encourage AIM scholars, if it's possible, to join an organization. To be able to build a connection towards the university, that helps your academic progression because you have peers that have similar
goals and interests as you. That really helps you along the way. These are lifelong friends that you can make as well, so it's important to consider that when you enter our medical school excellent and it's all about maximizing your educational experience.