Association of Black Women Physicians in partnership with the American Heart Association and Slalom for a May 21st panel discussion on
“Breaking the Silence on the Silent Killer –
Hypertension in the African American Community”
This topic is difficult to broach for many reasons. In my opinion, as a re-applicant, having been recently accepted into one of my top choice schools (so far), these tips are essential for success:
1. Know your worth. Regardless of whether you get in this cycle or not, you are WORTHY of medical school. If you have gotten to the point where, like me you know you will not be getting into medical school for the first, or third, time. This is not a reflection of who you are, it just means there is more that you can do to be more competitive next time *If medicine is REALLY what you want*.
2. Apply EARLY. The American Medical College Application System (AMCAS) opens in late May and you are allowed to submit early June. The three longest sections on the AMCAS application are the grades section, the 15 activities, and the personal statement. ● Inputting grades can be trumatic for some students. It can feel like reliving moments of failure. Give yourself time to process and reflect on your past, then, LET IT GO. Your grades are not a reflection of who you are and when you become an amazing practicing physician, premeds like you will want to hear your story of TRIUMPH! ● The 15 activities section, is a section dedicated to your top undergraduate activities. It ranges from community service to research to artistic endeavors and you can list 15 activities max. This list is something you can begin working on way in advance. Do not feel pressured to have 15 activities, in my opinion, 10 or more is sufficient. *Make sure your activities show an obvious interest in health care.* If that is not the case, maybe there is another passion that you have that you are neglecting in a pursuit of medicine that may not be for you. ● Give yourself at least 6 months to work on your personal statement. Have at least three “editors” and make sure at least one of them knows you well. That way if you are selling yourself short, they can call you out and give you anecdotal evidence to prove how AMAZING you are.
3. *Apply Broadly.* One of my mentors, when speaking to competitiveness, told me that though there is a minimum metric requirement (for GPA and MCAT) to be considered for medical school, one should not aim for that requirement, one should try to do better. I totally understood where she was coming from, competitiveness is relative, in that, you want your metrics to be as high as they can be. However, there are plenty of students who have gotten into medical school on the minimum requirements. This usually means that they also had a great personal statement and overcame adversities in addition to meeting the required metrics. Having been one such student, I want to urge any student applying on the minimum requirement to “apply broadly”. This means that you apply to medical schools across the U.S. and even internationally if you are interested in international schools. The average that I have heard, and from data I have collected, is about 25 schools. This is includes schools in the Midwest who want well rounded applicants from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. This also includes your top choices schools and schools with a track record for selecting students like you, whomever you may be.
4. Be Real With Yourself. When you look at your metrics, if they are not competitive (See Master’s vs. Post Bacc), do NOT rush into applying. Give yourself YOUR BEST CHANCE to get in. I say this because time will pass either way, so you might as well take your time and get it right Overall, know that anyone can get into medical school. Meaning, that if you put the time in and get the scores you need, and have an obvious commitment to the medical field, YOU can get into medical school P.S. If you do not choose to do a formal post baccalaureate or master’s program, but you need to boost your science gpa, FEEL FREE to do an informal post bacc. This means you take science classes on your own and at your own pace. DO NOT RETAKE classes you got at least a C in. Just move on, because there are some many upper division science courses you can take like Immunology, Histology, and Embryology, that will showcase your ability to do well, better than trying to retake the Organic Chemistry class you got a C in during your time in college. I hope this post makes you feel better equipped to tackle whatever path to medicine you choose. Sincerely
Your Sister in Solidarity,
Onome Oboh, MSMD Candidate ‘21
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What Makes a Masters/Post Bacc Student Competitive? Blog Post #2
So you got into your master’s program or post bacc. Now what? First you celebrate! Getting into one of these programs, as long as it is what you specifically need (See Masters vs. Post Bacc), is great and can potentially make you a more competitive applicant. Now, it is up to you to rake in the As and bask in the glow of all the interviews and acceptances you’ll get later.
Here are a few rules to follow, that you most likely did not follow in undergrad, like me, that are vital for your success are as follows:
Why is this so important? Because you are AWESOME, INTELLIGENT, and NEEDED in the medical field! You didn’t do as well as you would have hoped in undergrad, but that is OK! You have or are now learning how to fail and that will make you better able to communicate with patients in the long run. But for now, if you believe you’re awesome, intelligent and necessary in medicine, it will show in your classes and in your grades. When I did my post baccalaureate program, we spent the entire summer focused on positive affirmations. We all signed a contract that we had to maintain a 4.0, and when I started having 4.0 quarters, I knew it was largely because I had begun to believe that I could. The mind is too powerful to give in to self deprecating, negative self talk.
You’ll be amazed at how well you do in your program when you stop volunteering in all those service programs, drop those two jobs, etc. You did not get the grades/MCAT score you wanted the first time for a REASON, and it’s not because you were incapable. Give yourself a CHANCE to succeed. At least for the first semester, cut all extracurricular activities out, and figure out how you study best. Other students did not have the barriers you did to excel, but now you can show medical school admissions committees what you can do when you pursue the opportunity to focus in school.
Do not procrastinate. If you get into the flow of procrastinating it is hard to get out of it, and all the sleeplessness, depression, and/or weight gain that arise from being constant state of stress is no joke. Decide at the beginning of your program that you are going to get into a healthy rhythm of reviewing the topics you’re learning in class regularly and stay on top of your work.
Do not be disengaged in class. Like I mentioned earlier, the class sizes of master’s and post bacc programs are smaller than average undergraduate institutions. This means that your professor will most likely know who you are by the end of the semester/quarter. Speak up in class. Show your professor that you studied. Do well. Above all, DO NOT FORGET TO ASK FOR A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION! You will know which professors you have good standing with, and those are the ones who will write you QUALITY letters of rec.
No one gets through medical school on their own, and the same goes for master’s and post bacc programs. Observe your classmates. Be selective about who you study with; find the ones who are on fire to succeed and stick with them.
Your master’s and/or post bacc years can be fun and exciting, especially when the “A”s start accumulating for, possibly, the first time in your post secondary academic career. Do not lose your focus. Remember that you are BRILLIANT and necessary in the medical field. Never forget it.
Your Sister in Solidarity
Onome Oboh, MS
MD Candidate ‘21
*If you would like to contact Ms. Oboh, please email: ABPWMedia@gmail.com
Early in Black History Month, on February 8, a documentary aired on American public television for the first time. Black Women in Medicine , directed by Connecticut filmmaker Crystal R. Emery, chronicles how, across 3 centuries, black American women have surmounted heavy odds to succeed in a profession dominated by white men.
These pioneers include Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who in 1864 became the first black woman to graduate from medical school, as well as modern “firsts,” such as Jocelyn Elders, MD, the first black US surgeon general, and Claudia Thomas, MD, the first black female orthopedic surgeon. Young recent graduates entering the profession of their dreams also tell their inspiring stories in the film.
Five years in the making, the $800,000 documentary took its original inspiration from Emery’s 2011 meeting with New York pediatrician Doris Wethers, MD, who changed the life expectancy of people with sickle cell anemia, and later with other older black female physicians.
“I thought someone should tell the stories of these phenomenal women who did not allow race, gender or economics to deter them from their dreams,” Emery told Medscape Medical News.
Despite the achievement of such trailblazers, last October, the country was treated to an unwelcome example of enduring prejudice against black women physicians when a Delta flight attendant disdainfully rejected help for a stricken passenger from Tamika Cross, MD, a 28-year-old Houston obstetrician. The woman called into question Dr Cross’s medical credentials, but unhesitatingly accepted assistance from an older white male doctor.
f that sort of view still exists among some people as we near the third decade of the 21st century, pause to consider the hurdles black women doctors faced decades ago.
One such physician is retired Los Angeles obstetrician- gynecologist Carole Jordan-Harris, MD, who grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and entered medical school in 1976 at the University of California, Irvine, as a single mother of three.
Even some of her friends and relatives had doubted she could fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a physician, and though a frequent patient in doctors’ offices, she had only ever seen one African American doctor, and he was a man. “I had no role models,” she told Medscape Medical News. But the real test came when she entered medical school at the University of California, after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at a black university. “Irvine was a very white, very discriminatory area,” she recalled.
The main problem was the faculty. “They really didn’t hold their tongues about not being excited about seeing African-American students there, and particularly females.” One professor accused her of taking up a place in medical school that his nephew could have had.
Now retired from practice from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, she still winces at the nonrecognition accorded a black female doctor. “I would walk into the exam room with my white coat and stethoscope, and the patient might say, ‘When is the doctor coming?’ I called it my invisible white coat!”
And in her waiting room, which was decorated with several pieces of African art, more than one new patient asked the receptionist if the doctor was black. “When the answer was yes, she would take her co-payment and leave,” Dr Jordan-Harris recalled, with a laugh.
Obstetrics and gynecology was still very much a male domain in the 1970s, she added. “I was the wrong gender in the wrong specialty and I was repeatedly told that ob/gyn was a man’s specialty.” There was a systemic bias against female residents: they couldn’t stand the rigors of surgery, the long hours attending labor and delivery, and the late-night crises. “They were determined to allow no excuses for female residents even if they were pregnant or ill. They still had to work long hours and race down the hall for a code blue,” said Dr Jordan-Harris. “I think they thought we wouldn’t last and they were rougher on us.”
Others were irked by the growing preference for female physicians. “Some women would say, ‘I’ll wait to see the lady doctor,’ ” Dr Jordan-Harris recalled.
Racism or Sexism?
And although Dr Jordan-Harris experienced both racism and sexism, the latter seemed the more pervasive, she said. When she did her residency at Martin Luther King, Jr/Charles R. Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, she found the largely African American faculty was just as hard on women trainees as white professors were at Irvine.
In agreement with Dr Jordan-Harris is Patricia E. Bath, MD, a distinguished Harlem, New York-born ophthalmologist who trained at Howard University in Washington, DC, and at Columbia University in New York City. “Of the twin arrows of sexism and racism, sexism has been more ferocious. At UCLA privileges were given to my male counterparts that were not given to me before — and are still not now,” the now retired ophthalmologist said.
In 1973, Dr Bath became the first female African American doctor to complete an ophthalmology residency at New York University, and later became UCLA’s first female faculty member in ophthalmology. She also has the distinction of being the first female African American doctor to receive a medical patent, in her case for a laser probe used in cataract surgery.
To stave off the hostility, a young black woman physician needed intense concentration and strong psychological defenses. “You couldn’t let the ignorant remarks weight you down. You had to tell yourself you were better than that, you were above them — which was not hard to do if you had a passion,” Dr Jordan-Harris said.
But there was the occasional unexpected show of support. Dr Jordan-Harris recalled an older white male attending doctor who never deigned to address her during her medical training. “All he did was glare at me in silence and he seemed angry that I was even there,” she said. After she assisted the man in a long, difficult surgery, he pulled her aside. “He said he’d been observing me and I had what it took to be a good surgeon, which in his opinion was the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion, and the hands of a woman,” she said. “I was so blown away. That kept me going through the difficult situation at Irvine.”
Her taciturn teacher’s remark about the manual dexterity of women echoes one made in Emery’s documentary by orthopedic surgeon Dr Thomas, who says, “My mother was a seamstress and she taught me to sew very well, so I knew I could stitch up a body better than any man.”
Stinting positive feedback from faculty and their low expectations of performance from black female physicians were a source of irritation for otolaryngologist/head and neck surgeon Othella T. Owens, MD, who graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, in 1978, and also became the first black female in her residency program at UCLA.
“Later, when I left a faculty position after a year because I felt I gave more than I got, the department chair said he didn’t realize I was going to be so good. Go figure,” she told Medscape Medical News.
February 27, 2017
Association Of Black Women Physicians
The Association of Black Women Physicians is an organized network of Black women physicians committed to the improvement of public health and welfare, through the advancement of knowledge concerning women and the community health. We endeavor to enhance the personal and professional quality of life of present and future Black women physicians.
The Association of Black Women Physicians empowers Black Women to lead in health and wellness for ourselves and the community through premiere educational programs. The organization creates and supports numerous community health and wellness events that continue the tradition and goals set forth by the original charter members.
AHA would like to give a special acknowledgement to the president Dr. Ana Lopes Johnson who made a public commitment to champion the reduction of cardiovascular disease and hypertension among their African American patients.