MD, Underserved, Serving Minorities

Sweat profusely ran down his face and dizziness clouded his world. Though he was not feeling well, he ignored these signs and the repetitive, “Daddy, are you okay?” for the fear that he would display any sign of weakness in front of his children. After several hours of denial, his body gave the final warning that all was not well and the man collapsed in a pool of vomit. That man was my father and I watched as he too weak to stand and vomit on his mouth and clothes, was transported to the nearest medical center with the help of my sister and grandfather. After numerous CAT scans and other tests, we learned that my father suffered a minor stroke. Though he suffered a stroke the day before, my father, against the doctor’s advice, went to work the next day to ensure that his condition was not a financial burden on our family. Seeing my father suffer many complications from diabetes and hypertension, I strove to learn more about these diseases by reading medical literature to see how they could be controlled and prevented. However, watching my father sacrifice his health for financial reasons had a lasting impression on my motivation in medical care.

My father was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension when I was ten years old. His lack of treatment worsened his diabetic condition and my sophomore year in college, he was put on insulin. To this day, I am convinced that if we could have afforded adequate health care my father would have not sacrificed his health and thus he would not have suffered many complications. My primary interest in hypertension and diabetes is personally driven. For two summers I worked in Dr. Yan Huang’s lab where I conducted two independent research projects on the correlation between diabetes and atherosclerosis. One of my projects was concerned with controlling the regulation of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) expression in vascular smooth muscles cells by thiazolidinediones (TZDs). In this project we hypothesized that the diabetic class of drugs TZDs would reduce CTGF expression in vascular smooth muscle cells, which would in turn reduce atherogenesis. We did an in vitro study and were able to determine that TZDS did reduce CTGF expression in vascular smooth muscle cells. My research for that summer was recently accepted for publication in the journal Atherosclerosis. I saw the importance of biomedical research in clinical care. In addition, my project has taught me about the effective treatments for diabetes and I learned about the seriousness of my father’s disease. However, from reading medical literature and 15 personal experience, I learned about the health disparities that existed among minority groups 
as well as those of lower socioeconomic class. This information further reinforced my determination to pursue medicine to counter these disparities.

As a serious student, I felt that I should contribute equal time to volunteer work. I participated in an alternative spring break project in Logan, West Virginia through the Premedical Organization for Minority Students (POMS) in which we visited the underserved area of Logan, West Virginia and were able to get first-hand clinical experience. From this experience, I obtained skills in taking blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and urinalysis and used these skills while visiting senior citizens residences. Through my interaction with the seniors, I realized that communication and trust is vital for a healthy patient-physician 
relationship. In addition to doing health related activities, I was able to talk to students from disadvantage backgrounds on the importance of getting a postsecondary education. My goal in doing this was to give back to a community similar to my own because my environment gave me the right foundation to become a strong, intelligent individual. However, the most rewarding part of the trip was sharing with the local high school students my life story and how I found motivation in my disadvantage situation and used it to excel. I believe that it is important for them to see someone like themselves, so that they may be inspired to succeed as well.

By far, my most rewarding community service has been with the College after School Team (C.A.S.T), which is a program that provides free tutoring and mentorship to disadvantaged, inner-city high school students that are at risk. My duties included tutoring, during activities with the students, preparing students for the route to college by working with them on standardized tests and college applications. I consider this to be the one of the most rewarding community service that I have become involved with because I am able to see a progress in students and watch them succeed.

After seeing firsthand the waste in health due to the lack of health care in my community and family and the health disparities that exist among minorities and those of the lower economic rungs of society, I am aware of the need for physicians in medically underserved areas. As a potential physician, I wish to eliminate health disparities that exist among minorities and lower income individuals by making health care available to those who would not otherwise have access to it. Medical school would provide me with the skills needed to counter the health disparities that exist domestically and globally by providing 
experience in such areas.

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