Colbert Charles Nelson

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Hometown: Little Rock, Arkansas

Name of Undergraduate Institution: The University of Tulsa

Major(s)/Minor(s) in College: Bachelor’s in Exercise Sports Science

Name of Professional Schools: The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (Masters in Public Health), William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (2020 Graduation)

Favorite Quote: “Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.”

Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?

I am currently in my fourth year of medical school. I chose medicine for two main reasons. One because I grew up and was exposed to health disparities at an early age. I wanted to address them in some way and being a physician would be a way to do this.

The other reason was not seeing representation growing up. This being more apparent the higher I climbed in my education journey, the less I saw people who looked like me, talked like me, and thought like me. I hope to impact this in the future by encouraging underrepresented minorities to chase careers in not just medicine but all areas of STEM so in the future there can be more representation and a greater chance to impact positive change in education.

If you could go back and have a chat with your naïve college freshman self, what would you tell him?

I would tell him to not doubt himself so much and to keep chasing your goals. There will be many who doubt him and that’s okay, use it to fuel your motivation to prove them wrong. Surround yourself with those who encourage you and make sure to give yourself time to have fun.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?

Stay confident and motivated and know that you are just as capable as anyone else. Do not doubt yourself or your abilities. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those who look like you and especially those who don’t look like you, because you never know where your most trusted mentor and support will come from. One of my most recent and strongest supporters looks nothing like me and comes from a much different background, but we envision impacting the world in similar ways.

Stay humble in this process, there are many who want to pursue medicine and many who falter. When in doubt, please ask questions. Lastly, be yourself. Find a place that wants you for who you are and is there to support you in what you want to do and who you want to become. Trust me, they are out there.

Do you have another professional degree? If so, how has it impacted you?

I have an MPH; I finished it during my first year of medical school. It has been mostly positive; the experience of having to balance my first year of medical school with finishing my MPH made me develop a lot of skills I would otherwise would not have developed such as the ability to manage my time, doing satellite work and conference calls to finish my final project, and finishing deadlines with other requirements needed of me as well. More recently I have been able to talk about my MPH on the interview trail and because of what I want to use it for down the road, it has been very well received.

What advice would you give to someone getting ready to start their application process to medical schools?

To not be afraid to highlight your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Turning your weaknesses into moments where you had the opportunity to learn from them and get better from it.

Did you take some time off before medical school? If so, what did you do during that time?

I did take time off between undergraduate and medical school. After undergrad I needed to take some extra classes to strengthen my application. I also started my MPH, worked part time in a school district, volunteered with Big Brother Big Sister, volunteered at a local school reading to kids, did a MCAT prep program, took the MCAT, and worked in that same MCAT prep program the summer before I matriculated.


Do you have any passions outside of school? If so, what are they?

Improving diversity and inclusion in medicine is a big passion of mine, I hope to help bring about some measurable change in the future with my career. I also have a passion for sports and love sports of all kinds, especially football, March Madness, soccer, track, etc. I really enjoy cooking; if I wasn’t allowed to be involved in medicine or health at all I would probably be a chef.

I enjoy video games when I have the time, watching television (Netflix, HGTV, Food Network, etc), and currently I am way out of my comfort zone and had worked on building a computer this past holiday season.

What do you like to do for fun?

Not study, cook, workout and stay active, read, watch television, and just chill with my wife.

How have you been able to deal with your romantic relationship and medical school at the same time?

It has been difficult at times balancing school with my relationship. I entered medical school engaged, got married between 1st and 2nd year, and we will be almost 3 years strong when I graduate. I am lucky enough to have an amazing wife who has been able to support both of us during my studies. Not only does she work full time bringing home the bacon, but she is finishing her Doctorate in Education. Words cannot express how thankful I am to have had her along for this journey.

Back to focusing on the relationship, you must make time for your relationship to make it work. Your significant other may say they understand and want you to study, but you need to make time for them. Go on date nights, send them random texts, get them nice snacks or thinking of you gifts. Things to keep the magic going because a lot of the time you will be busy, stressed, and sometimes your relationship will seem to be on the back burner.

What did you do during the summer before you started medical school?

The summer before I started medical school, I was working on my preceptor project that was required for my MPH. I helped to evaluate a bridging the gap program focusing on the ACT/college prep program at the institution. This was done to see if they were meeting the set goals established, primarily focusing on the goals of diversity and cultural competency being met, as well as how effective the actual program was in terms of ACT prep and college matriculation.

I also worked as a mentor in a MCAT/pre-medicine prep course. I went through the same course the year before and I wanted to give back after going through the medical school application process a second time.

What do you do to get through the stressful nature of medical school?

Have activities that help you escape for the chaos of medical school. I work out 4-5 days a week, I usually like to go before school starts so around 5AM but I also went a lot after classes were over in the evening. It just helped me destress and refocus on what I needed to do.

Also having a strong support system in place, both people who are going through the same thing as you but also someone outside who can give you a different perspective. That was mainly my wife who supported me and still does, she is my rock and I’m not sure I could have made it this far without her.

What extra-curricular activities are you involved in at your school?

In the past I have been involved with different student organizations during my first two years of medical school. I was the Vice President of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians at my school, the Secretary for the Journal Article Discussion Group at my school and the Community Service Liaison for my schools Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter.

Last year I was a National Future Leadership Project Fellow through the SNMA, as well as involved with the National Osteopathic Schools Committee and the National Pipeline Mentoring Institute Council.

Currently, I am one of two National Community Service Committee Chairs for the SNMA. I am also a National Medical Fellow, having received the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Scholarship for 2019. I also founded a chapter of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine at my school that officially started this past fall semester.

What were some of your involvements in college? Have those involvements helped you in any way in medical school?

I was a collegiate football player for 2.5 years at my undergraduate institution. I also was a member of the Association of Black Collegiates during undergrad. I was a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta and did some community outreach. I did a lot of research concerning the field of Exercise Sports Science. I also worked as a tutor in undergrad for student athletes after I was done playing.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and motivating responses Colbert, you are very much appreciated! Readers of this feature will have a lot to glean from your invaluable and unique experiences! Best of luck to you as you complete your interview season and head on to Match Day, graduation and your bright future as a physician-leader!

Health Career Spotlights Home Page

Posted on January 7th, 2020

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