Hometown: Frederick, Maryland
Name of Undergraduate Institution: Claflin University
Major(s)/Minor(s) in College: Biochemistry Major
Name of Medical School: University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
Residency Program: OB/GYN. I matched into the residency program at Womack Medical Center Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, NC (I’m an HPSP recipient and therefore required to do an Army Residency).
Favorite Quote: “We have two options both medically and emotionally. Give up or fight like hell.” – Lance Armstrong
Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?
I am currently a 4th year medical student. Due to military students matching much earlier, I found out on December 13th that I matched into an OBGYN residency program. Right now, it seems so surreal because I am in a place where I can see my dreams and hard work start to come to fruition and I am so blessed. My decision to pursue medicine was multifactorial. Believe it or not, there was no special situation, person or story. I didn’t have a come to Jesus moment like most students. For me, it was simple. I enjoyed life and realized at an early age that you could have all the money in the world but if you were in poor health the money didn’t mean anything. Many people were and still are unhealthy, simply, because they lack education. More specifically, we all know that African Americans are disproportionally affected when it comes to preventable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, etc. Many African Americans are uncomfortable visiting physicians and even avoid them because simply put: they don’t look like us. I love to teach. I love education. Most of all, I love my people. If I had the opportunity to make a lasting impression on someone’s life by improving his or her health, then I knew I would wake up every morning wanting to go in to work and loving my chosen line of work. Looking back, learning the art of practicing medicine and becoming a physician was the only answer for me. And if I had to, I would do this all over again. Nothing else was ever an option.
I chose to pursue Obstetrics and Gynecology as a specialty because of the myriad of opportunities it provides. You’ll hear many people say that it’s the perfect mix of surgery and medicine, which is true. However those weren’t the only reasons why I was drawn to the field. My passion is STI education and prevention. African Americans are disproportionately affected in this area as well. In addition to providing countless women with phenomenal healthcare and building lifelong, lasting relationships with my patients, I plan to be at the forefront of the fight against the STIs ravaging our community.
If you could go back and have a chat with your naïve college freshman self, what would you tell her?
I would tell her to, “Fight the good fight!” But no, really. I remember thinking about each step that I had to take and the entire process seemed daunting and insurmountable. I have learned and I would tell her, “This journey is a marathon. Don’t get caught up in the end result. Take each day one step at a time and put your best foot forward. In order to win the war you have to first win many battles. You eat the elephant one bite at a time!”
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?
Define your why and then go for it. You’ll hear many people say that if you want to go into medicine for the money, it’s not worth it. And they’re right! My why is what wakes me up every morning and what fueled my studying into the earliest hours of the morning and the latest hours of the night. My why is what helped me look past the naysayers. My why is why I come back day after day. Remember your why and you can make it through anything.
Did you take some time off before medical school? If so, what did you do during that time?
I did! I graduated May 2012 and did not start medical school until July 2014. In my time off I studied and took the MCAT for the second time, reapplied to medical school and worked as a laboratory technician at a pathology lab.
What do you like to do for fun?
Fitness has always been a passion of mine and I love to lift weights. Not only does it help to relieve stress, but there is something magically gratifying about looking in the mirror and seeing your hard work staring back at you. I also love to bake cakes and decorate them. Furthermore, I’ve always been an avid reader and leisurely reading isn’t something that I get to do a whole lot of anymore but when I do have time I love a good novel. Finally, I love to spend time with my family.
What do you do to get through the stressful nature of medical school?
Physical activity is my outlet. Interestingly enough, I was not a frequent gym goer during the beginning of my medical school career. However, during my first year of medical school I was diagnosed with depression and regular exercise was a component of my treatment plan. Exercise allows me to stay sane and is a great stress relief. Moreover, my classmates and I are so fortunate that our school gives us free counseling services so if I ever feel like I need to talk to someone, I make an appointment. I find that it helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of in a supportive, judgement-free environment. I also write in a journal a couple times a week just to get my thoughts out. I do not readily share that aspect of my medical school journey. However, I know the stigma associated with mental illness in our community and want to say this: medical school will, undoubtedly, be one of the most stressful times of your life. Period. There is an increasing number of suicides committed by physicians and medical students every year. If you feel as though you need help, please do not be afraid to ask.
This is such fantastic information Leighann! Thanks a ton for being willing to share what you’ve shared with us and for taking the time to help inspire and motivate those who wish to be in your shoes one day! I totally agree with defining your why and using it to keep you motivated throughout the whole process! Congratulations on matching and best of luck to you as you begin treating patients with your hard-earned medical degree! And thank you so much for serving our country as well!
Posted on April 18th, 2018