Hi,

I just watched you all on YouTube and I think what you all are doing is so wonderful. I have a question: my daughter also an African-American, is in the 7th grade and wants to be a pediatrician. Do you all have any suggestions on things we should do?

I am homeschooling her because she was falling behind and with the teachers being overworked. She was slipping through the cracks. All the med programs that I found were for high school students. If you all may know of any programs please let me know.

-TT


Dear TT,

Thank you for your very kind words. First off, how amazing that your daughter is already picturing herself as a physician! It sounds like you are working hard to support her dream and help her thrive — I applaud you both!!

As you know, there is a definite lack of pre-med programs geared toward those who have not yet reached high school. Truth be told, I think this is one reason why we don’t see as much diversity among physicians to this day; few pipeline programs exist, and when they do, they typically don’t target students early enough.

That being said, there are still lots of ways that you can help your daughter further explore her interest to become a doctor.

I’ll let you in on a secret.

You should know that even the college level pre-med curriculum (i.e., the set of required courses you must take before you can apply to medical school, including Biology, Chemistry and Physics) has little to do with actual every day practice of medicine.

You read that correctly.

The truth is, next to nothing you learn before med school has practical use in the day to day life of a doctor.

That being said, this course work is far from “blow-off” or “fluff”. The rigor of the pre-med course work is helpful in a few ways. The rigor helps many students fine tune their study skills, which will help them when it comes time to perform academically in the intense setting of medical school. They also help students have a general foundation of basic science on which they can build their medical knowledge.

I encourage you to frame the experiences you are seeking for your daughter in this manner. In other words, while there may not be a set pre-medical program in your area which targets kids her age, but perhaps there is a science camp or museum which will expose her to more advanced science concepts. Perhaps there is an online course or in-person seminar which will help explore and understand the ways she learns best.

The other missing piece is actual clinical exposure. One way to gain exposure is to think outside of the box. Realize that there are opportunities to come face-to-face with “patients” other than just the hospital (which may be hesitant to accept volunteers younger than 16 or so). For example, volunteering at nursing home may increase her comfort around people with mobility limitations and on multiple medications. Attending advocacy meetings for certain medical-condition related or public health groups (a group advocating Medicare-for-All as an example) will also increase her exposure.

I wish her the best of luck! I look forward to being her colleague one day.

– Dr. Brittani

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