Hometown: Atlanta, GA by way of Washington, DC
Name of Undergraduate Institution: Morehouse College
Major/Minor in College: Biology Major/Spanish Minor
Name of Medical School: University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine
Favorite Quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure…” – Marinne Williamson
Facebook: Todd Jackson
Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?
I just completed the first of a four-year MD/MPH program at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. My desire for medicine can be described in one sentence, “Healthy equality is making sure everyone has shoes but health equity is making sure everyone has shoes that fit them.” I was attracted to medicine because I saw a need for improving health disparities in urban, marginalized communities, many of which are similar to how I grew up.
If you could go back and have a chat with your naïve college freshman self, what would you tell him?
Take your studies seriously, college will be over before you know it. Set yourself up to take a year or two off before starting medical school and truly take time off instead of playing catch up to get into school. Also the same as what I stated below.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?
Stay prepared for every next step. If your passions are in the healthcare professions, you must actively identify specific ways to get to your goal. It’s not enough to say you want to do it but many months later, you’re still in the same place.
What is your favorite thing about your medical school?
The beach is literally 10 minutes away! Haha, but no seriously, I love that my program stresses me out. That sounds like a bad thing but what I mean is that it’s continuously challenging me to think about the world and be better than I was the previous day.
Do you have another professional degree? If so, how has it impacted you?
While I haven’t yet completed my MPH, I’ve learned so far that it integrates community-level considerations into direct patient care and brings attention to the psychosocial implications in the health of individuals. Being a physician is more than diagnosing and treating, you must consider the whole person and understand the barriers that impede good health. That could mean decreased access to resources, minimal understanding of healthcare, or cultural beliefs that play a role in how a person manages their own health. My MPH inspires me to work with my patients on a one-on-one basis while striving to eliminate some of those personal barriers through community-wide interventions.
What advice would you give to someone getting ready to start their application process to medical schools?
Make sure the healthcare professions are what you want. I was editing a personal statement the other day and I had to contact that individual and truly ask them if they wanted medicine. I could tell just through the personal statement that it wasn’t their passion and sure enough, it wasn’t. Although very rewarding, it’s a very, very lengthy process that’s physically, mentally and emotionally demanding…and it’s not cheap. In short, follow your heart. If it’s not in medicine, that’s okay too.
Did you take some time off before medical school? If so, what did you do during that time?
I did a premedical post-baccalaureate program at Washington University in St. Louis to take additional coursework in preparation for an MCAT retake and to improve my GPA. During that time, I became an organic chemistry teaching assistant, volunteered at an HIV clinic, and logged a couple thousand contact hours as an ER medical scribe.
Do you have any passions outside of school? If so, what are they?
Forms of mentoring have become my passion over the last year or so. I encourage everyone to follow their dreams into medicine but I’ve also recognized a special need to engage people of color and improve representation of minority groups in medicine. By doing so, we diversify, bring various viewpoints to the table, and improve the healthcare delivered to all members of our communities.
How have you been able to deal with your romantic relationship and medical school at the same time?
As a man sure, but I’ve often heard that women in professional school have a more difficult time finding a suitor. I even have classmates who condone the idea that some men can feel intimated by a woman in power. Why? I couldn’t tell you haha. A woman that is on her game is a beautiful thing.
What did you do during the summer before you started medical school?
I did absolutely nothing. I hung out all summer with family and friends. A few beers and a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change a thing. Once you get going, the grind doesn’t stop.
What do you do to get through the stressful nature of medical school?
I’ll typically take a day or two off. I won’t do anything related to school if I can help it. I binge Netflix and eat good food haha. That’s balance to me. Once I start to feel as if I’m giving a half-hearted effort, I know I won’t be effective otherwise.
I also try to work-out five days a week, turns out to be like four most cases. I also try to keep a relatively healthy diet and get a decent amount of sleep.
What extra-curricular activities are you involved in at your school?
I do a lot of research – medical education, STI prevention and adolescent sexual health; now, quality control measures that focus on PTSD screenings for HIV/AIDs primary care visits. I also do outreach work with our chapter’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA). Our school hosts health fairs about once every other month which I take part in and I also work the student-run free health clinic nights not infrequently.
What is it like attending school in your city?
Being that it’s Miami, it’s definitely fast-paced but you quickly get used to it and integrate. If you didn’t know any Spanish, living here will quickly get you up to speed. You’ll find yourself singing along to Spanish songs without realizing it. Also, the weather is typically really nice (other than the odd hurricane in the fall) and like I said before, the beach is 10 minutes away.
What were some of your involvements in college? Have those involvements helped you in any way in medical school?
For three years, I was a part of an organization on campus called Campus Alliance for Student Activities (CASA) and we were in charge of all student programming at school. Very time-intensive. During my senior year, I co-directed our school’s homecoming which is a big deal at a Historically Black College/University.
I also mentored middle-school students in the West End of Atlanta which is notoriously one of the roughest parts of Atlanta. In the same neighborhood, I took part in creating a community garden at the Omenela African Teachings Museum.
Finally, as a member of the Minority Biomedical Research Support – Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) program, I did a bunch of research: behavioral neuroscience, cellular biology, and clinical research. Won’t bore you guys with the details.
Who are some of your favorite musicians? Favorite books? Shows? Movies?
- Favorite Musician – Don’t have a particular favorite; seriously depends on my mood. I listen to everything from Marconi Union to Latin Jazz, Kaytranada, Bryson Tiller, Future – it really just depends on the day and what I’m doing.
- Books – top two: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- Movie – The Gladiator
Thanks a ton for your advice and for sharing your valuable experiences with us Todd! We really appreciate you allowing us to learn from you and I’m sure that those who read this feature will make great use of your advice! Congrats on finishing your first-year of your medical education and best of luck to you as you continue pursuing your goals!
Posted on June 21st, 2017