I grew up wanting to know about the world. When I was only three years old, I asked my parents for a globe for Christmas. My mom said I was so happy when I opened it, I sat hugging the globe in my lap while I ate chocolate out of my stocking.
My love for the world hasn't diminished over the years - in fact, I think it probably has grown. I've had the opportunity to travel to many places, some developed and some extremely impoverished. My experiences with other cultures have shaped me into the person and the physician that I am today.
Travel broadens your horizons. It opens your mind in places that you may have not even know it was closed. It makes you a better person, if you let it.
Maya Angelou said it best...
"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
It is because of my view of the world, rather than despite it, that I chose to get my medical education at St. George’s University in the Caribbean. I remember sitting down with a highlighter and a big book of all the medical schools in the US, along with my MCAT scores and my CV when it was time to start applying to medical school. And after going through that whole big book of schools, only one stood out to me – and it was that admissions committee that received my one and only application to medical school.
“Why a foreign medical school?” you might ask. And you would be right to question - because it is no little known fact that there is still a stigma surrounding foreign medical grads. Caribbean schools are seen as a “last-shot” for some, in particular those who have been unable to gain admission to US medical schools. It is historically more difficult to obtain electives and even residency slots as a foreign grad. In that same vein, non-traditional applicants outnumber those coming straight from college. But these reasons did not deter me – in fact, they were among the reasons why I chose SGU. I wanted to study with those who were hungry, with those who knew what it was like to have to work for their dreams, and to succeed because they chased that passion relentlessly. My MCAT scores were competitive, I had extensive healthcare experience, and my CV exemplified my well-rounded upbringing. SGU was not a last-chance choice for me – it was my first choice. And, given the opportunity, I would choose it again.
The Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program welcomed me into a group of pre-meds who shared my passion for global health.
Together, we experienced life “across the pond” in between cadaver lab, exams, and lectures on global health. I ended my first year with a trip to Kenya on a Tropical Medicine elective, which only emphasized that I had made the perfect choice in SGU.
My second year found me on the island of Grenada, where in between practice patient encounters, I had real patient encounters in the local hospitals. The exposure to the pathology there, in combination with the limited resources, was a lesson in doing more with less, something that I have carried with me through my medical career. I used this new outlook during my second year to practice my newly-gained medical knowledge on yet another international elective, this time to India, where I assisted on my first surgeries, and learned what it was like to shoulder the heavy responsibility of someone else’s life.
My clinical rotation years were spent mainly in New York City, with a brief trip out to California, where I would later settle down for residency. And as my classmates and I embarked on our paths to our various specialties, we found that we weren’t “less than” the US-trained physicians, something that people often tried to tell us. We were competent and capable and we had a spark and passion that couldn’t be dimmed.
When someone asks me where I trained, I love to tell them about SGU. I tell them about why I went into medicine and how SGU kept me in medicine, and how my experiences there lit the spark that burst into the flames of my career in global health today.
And then, when they ask me about what it was like going to a Caribbean medical school, I tell them about my colleagues – of my amazing, inspiring colleagues who are successful oncologists, obstetricians, rheumatologists, surgeons, radiologists, pediatricians, family medicine physicians, ER physicians, and more. These are people I call when I want advice – medical or otherwise – who know what it’s like to work against a stigma and to break that barrier. I am proud to be a graduate of St. George’s University, and to know what it’s like to swim against the current and come out on top.
Visit the St. George’s University website at: http://www.sgu.edu/
Learn more about the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholar’s Program at: http://www.sgu.edu/academic-programs/school-of-medicine/keith-b-taylor-global-scholars-program/.