UMMSM Future Doc Series : April

UMMSM Future Doc Series April 2019

Future Doc Series - Christel Wekon-Kemeni

UMMSM Summer Programs completed: HSCMW Program TA – Summer 2012, MCAT Prep Program – Summer 2014, MSHCM Program TA – Summer 2016
Undergrad: University of Miami
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Microbiology & Immunology
Medical School: Wake Forest School of Medicine, Class of 2019
Hometown: Chesapeake, Virginia

Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine?

My interest in the field of healthcare started with a visit to the optometrist back when I was a freshman in high school. I had suffered from progressive vision loss as a child and received my first pair of glasses when I was ten. Although this was a routine visit, I had for whatever reason become particularly curious about what my optometrist was doing to me and after asking a ton of questions, I decided that I wanted to learn more about becoming an eye doctor. My mother, who was always pushing me to be better than I believed myself to be and who really wanted me to become a medical doctor, took this chance to introduce me to the field of ophthalmology and convinced me that I could play an even bigger role in not only protecting the vision of my future patients, but also in curing their ocular ailments by becoming an eye surgeon. This realization, coupled with a scary experience I had later on in high school where I helplessly watched my father almost succumb to a cerebral malaria infection, solidified my decision to pursue a career in medicine.

Throughout my time in college and my first couple of years in medical school, I was determined to become an Ophthalmologist. Although I did my best to keep an open mind to other fields of medicine during my time in medical school, I definitely worked to express my interest in ophthalmology by participating in activities related to that specialty. It wasn’t until my third-year rotations that I started to really question my specialty choice, especially after my amazing experience on my Pediatrics rotation. I found that a new passion had been ignited within me during this rotation; a passion that was further fortified as I began to reflect on all of my positive experiences with pediatric populations throughout my life thus far, and began to envision the endless opportunities that could present themselves to me in this specialty. This same passion ultimately played a huge role in convincing me to switch from pursuing a career in Ophthalmology to one in Pediatrics.

Now that I’ve made this switch and am preparing to start my residency training, I’m not entirely sure what my career will look like. However, what I do know is that I have a yearning to help pediatric patients stay resilient in the face of medical adversity as well as to use media and technology to help improve the health and well-being of children. I also know that I will work to address the social determinants of health that negatively affect specific populations of children and will use my platform as a Pediatrician to advocate for children so that they have a fair shot at growing into the best versions of themselves that they can be. Lastly, I want to use my platform to mentor and inspire underrepresented minorities to pursue a career in healthcare in order to continue increasing the number of URM health providers, those of whom younger generations will look up to and hopefully aspire to be.

What advice would you give to premed students applying to medical school?

Man, I could go on and on with the advice that I would give to pre-med students! The first piece of advice that I would give would be to make sure that they can define and clearly articulate why they want to go into medicine in the first place. It is a very challenging journey and if they don’t have a good enough reason to continue along the path when it gets rough, they will end up being less inclined to push through the struggles that they will almost certainly face as they pursue a medical career. After understanding what it is that’s driving them to pursue a career in medicine, I would highly recommend finding mentors who can help guide them along the way and expose them to things that they may have never otherwise been aware of.

I would tell them to get involved with pre-med organizations in college (ex. MAPS, AMSA, AED, etc.) as early as possible in order to maximize their exposure to valuable opportunities made available to them. Through these organizations or other similar ones that they may encounter, pre-meds can perform sustained community service and even become leaders within them. While it is important to join at least one pre-med organization, it is also highly recommended that they join other organizations on campus or in the community that they truly enjoy, whether it pertains to medicine or not. Admission committees at medical schools love to hear about interesting and unique experiences, especially if they aren’t related to medicine at all!

Here are some other pieces of advice I would give to pre-med students:

  • Look into both MD and DO schools!
  • Majoring in the sciences is not necessary! As long as they fulfill the requirements for the pre-med track, they can major in whatever they want!
  • Consider how gap years may help them develop personally and professionally.
  • Recognize that the only limits that they have are the ones that they set upon themselves.
  • Remember that everyone has their own destined path to follow and that everyone’s personal situation is different, so it just does not make any sense at all to compare themselves to others.
  • Learn to make the most out of any situations they may find themselves in and to not only take advantages of opportunities afforded to them, but to also create opportunities for themselves.
  • Understand that this whole process is a marathon and not a sprint. There may be times where they experience things that they never expected to encounter, and that’s okay! It is important to realize that they are not alone on this journey. Plus, it is highly likely that there are multiple people who may have had similar experiences to them!
  • Everything happens for a reason.

Like I said, I could go on and on with advice for pre-meds! If there are any pre-meds reading this who would like even more advice about getting into medical school and/or would like to read about both my experiences in medical school as well as the experiences of students and professionals in various health fields, feel free to visit my blog, Black Man, M.D.!

Tell us about your UMMSM Medical Scholars Summer Program experience.

I had a fantastic experience during my time in the MCAT Preparation Summer Program! During my eight-week experience, I not only was afforded the opportunity to engage in a structured, full-length Kaplan course at no cost to me, but I was also able to create lasting bonds with people who were in the program with me! The program itself was rigorous, nurturing and empowering all at the same time. As a participant of the program, I was expected to devote a ton of energy and time into preparing for the MCAT by using the incredible resources that were graciously given to me, which were designed to increase my knowledge base, improve my test-taking skills, and bolster my confidence overall. The class structure of the program made it easy to make new friends and to learn in a collaborative setting. It also held me accountable and forced me to take my preparation efforts seriously, which I was very grateful for.

While the MCAT preparation class was a major component of the summer program, there were also additional benefits that we as participants were able to enjoy. Some of these benefits included shadowing residents and attendings in various specialties at Jackson Memorial Hospital, attending weekly dinner meetings to discuss a variety of topics, listening to medical students, physicians, and other alumni of the program share their experiences with us and provide us with useful advice, participating in mock medical school interviews, taking advantage of the mentorship opportunities that were made available to us, and simply enjoying what the city of Miami had to offer. And to top of my experience in the summer program, I was voted by my class to be the MCAT Preparation Program Class of 2014’s keynote speaker at the annual celebration event that takes place on the last day of the program every year!

In addition to participating in the MCAT Preparation Program, I also served as a Teaching Assistant on two separate occasions for the UMMSM Medical Scholars Summer Program. I first served as a TA for the High School Careers and Medicine Workshop Program in the summer of 2012 and did so again for the Minority Students in Health Careers Motivation Program in the summer of 2016. Both experiences were extremely rewarding to me and allowed for both personal and professional growth. I also received some great mentorship from the people I worked with and even served as a mentor to many people in both of these programs, some of whom I still keep in touch with to this very day!

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

Whenever I’m not busy studying medicine, helping care for patients, or actively serving in a leadership capacity, you can catch me blogging, mentoring, networking, reading books, listening to good music, looking for ways to inspire others, teaching myself new things, working out in the gym, playing FIFA, watching great movies & documentaries, playing pool, traveling, playing board games, watching college sports and spending quality time with friends, family and my significant other.