It Is Finished!

October 2, 2014

“I have finished the work, which You have given Me to do.” —John 17:4

Medical Doctor or Nurse Theme Graduation Cake Stethoscope _amp_ Syringe

Greetings future healthcare professionals!

After a very long hiatus, I am very happy to share with you the update on my journey as a medical student.

To those who have been following my journey, thank you for your support and kind words, spoken and unspoken. One of the many things I learned during my matriculation through professional school is that support is paramount. No man is an island, and if one tries to be, one area of your life will suffer for it. In short, ask for help when you need it. Seek a mentor, a therapist, a friend, a pastor, a financial advsior, and certainly seek God.

I have seen firsthand how not seeking help can be detrimental because I went through it myself. One reason for my silence in posting during my fourth year of medical school is due to an incident that occurred at the end of my third year.

After completing my third year clinical rotations in London, U.K, I realized I had some time left over to partake in a voluntary international elective. I am interested in global health and plan to volunteer as a medical missionary for at least a few weeks a year. For the first time, I was also in a prime location geographically to travel to Africa cost-effectively. As with all my major decisions, I wasted no time to research and sign-up for an amazing opportunity to rotate thru an inner-city hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with Work The World. I chose two weeks in Pediatrics, two weeks in OBGYN and one week in a faraway village. Those five weeks would take place in December/January, meaning I would be spending Christmas, New Years and my birthday in unfamiliar territory. How exciting!

Sub-Sahara Africa was definitely an eye-opener in more ways than one. I was emotionally taxed by the preventable deaths I witnessed due to the shortcomings of a 3rd-world healthcare system; however, I was increasing my medical acumen by being more hands-on with cases that are far more advanced in presentation than I would ever witness in the West. These cases included malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, HIV, gastroenteritis, viral illnesses, very premature infants, etc.

Then, the unthinkable happened. On December 26, 2012, I was preparing for a presentation that I volunteered to do for the residents. Unfortunately, my program’s accommodation did not have WIFI access so I went across the street to conduct my research. Only steps away from my home on my return, I rounded a corner and immediately saw the man who would attack me.

Let me preface by saying that only seconds before, a voice in my head told me to cross my cloth-bag, which contained my valuables, over my shoulders. I refused to listen because home was seconds away, but the voice was relentless. Therefore, I crossed my bag over my shoulder, and seconds later, the eyes of the man that would attack me is now burned into my memory. He reached out and grabbed my bag and my first reaction was to instinctively resist and scream. He pulled at my bag and I clutched it harder and screamed louder.

It was dusk, and the streets were filled with a large post-holiday crowd, marching down the street. I screamed in desperation for someone to help. Finally, I noticed a group of young men walking towards me. “Praise God,” I thought. They would help me.

To my utter shock and disappointment, instead of pushing my attacker away, they were also attacking me to try and get my purse. This brought attention to me, as a crowd of young men pushed, punched, and kicked me. Unfortunately, the extra attention brought on more vagabonds that were now removing my clothes in the middle of the street. In the end, there were about 20 men attacking me. I was numb and hovering above myself. I thought I would die that night. I just kept screaming, crying, resisting, and watching the gate of my home that was literally steps away, wondering why no one would help. Finally, out the corner of my eyes, I saw an old man yell something from afar in Swahili, waving them off, and just like that, all the men surrounding me dispersed, walking away as if nothing had happened. I never saw that old man again.

I limped home, crying, angry, disheveled, clothes tattered, clutching at my ripped handbag, which they were never able to take from me. That very night, I wanted to leave the country. I made plans to leave early after the necessary police/hospital/embassy runs, but changed my mind hours before my flight. I wouldn’t let those criminals win! I will finish what I came here to do! And I did.

The next three weeks in Tanzania resulted in my delivering 11 babies, saving a baby’s life that was born in distress, vaccinating a whole village, going on an amazing safari, swimming with dolphins and celebrating an unforgettable birthday. It was an extraordinary journey. However, the lingering post-traumatic stress was very evident when I commenced my fourth year in New York. Any man that walked towards me on the streets of NY were possible attackers. In such a crowded city, this was every day, and it affected my mood. I thought thru sheer willpower I could get through it. Unfortunately, it led to isolation and a depressed mood, which negatively affected my studies.   After much introspection, I decided I needed to take a step back, take some time off, recuperate, and seek help. This help came from my amazing church family in New York and although things were bleak on the outside, my renewed faith in God led to a calmer spirit.

I was worried about not graduating with my class, however, what kind of physician would I be if I didn’t take care of myself first. Studies show that a good number of medical students and doctors face depression or other mental health issues but keep it to themselves for fear of being an outcast and considered unstable. The results range from compromised healthcare delivery, troubled relationships, substance abuse and even suicide. The stigma has to end!

If you have read my previous posts on what it took for me to get here, you would soon understand that this journey was never meant to be simple for me. I was faced with major setbacks for years. It is not superhuman strength that allowed me to finish. It is a relentless tenacity and a remembrance of where God has brought me from in the past.

The song says: “I just can’t give up now. I’ve come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me the road would be easy, but I don’t believe He’s brought me this far to leave me.”

He hasn’t left me yet, even when the enemy tries to whisper in my ear that God has. You are your worse enemy. Only you can extinguish your goals and desires. The moment you stop, it stops. I hope to encourage you that you may pause, but don’t ever stop. I was almost done with medical school when things went haywire. I was very discouraged and wanted to go into an eternal abyss and never come out. I plastered on a smile but inside I was shattered. My first semester thoughts of being an impostor came back full-throttle. But I was so close!

Therefore, like the last leg of a marathon on a hot, humid day, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

Step, step…pause…step, step…pause…step, sip some water…pause…step, step, final step…finish line!!!

I can proudly say that I am now Natacha Pierre, M.D, as of August 2014.

My journey is a living example of the old adage: “If I can make it, so can you!”

Godspeed!

~Tasha


Senior year timeline and and interview questions

September 15, 2014

I had the pleasure of speaking at last week’s OBMA meeting. Heres some of the valuable information you missed.  Dr. Vanterpool and Dr. Moss provided their insights as well!  Please make an effort to attend the meetings arranged for your benefit!

For seniors, your prime focus is getting your AMCAS or AASDAS applications sent out, and preparing for interviews.  Attached you’ll find your tips and some questions for both traditional and MMI type interviews.

OU Fall Timeline – Senior

Feel free to contact us at healthou.org@gmail.com, with any questions.


Junior Year Timeline and Supplements

September 15, 2014

I had the pleasure of speaking at last week’s OBMA meeting. Heres some of the valuable information you missed.  Dr. Vanterpool and Dr. Moss provided their insights as well!  Please make an effort to attend the meetings arranged for your benefit!

Juniors, this is an important year for you, tons to be done!. Two areas of emphasis for you are:  AMCAS activities and work page, and your personal statement. Attached are some questions to consider before you begin to write your personal statement and a sample AMCAS, activities and work experience page. The AMCAS activities and work experience section is a daunting section that will take more time than you think.  One way to save yourself the hassle is to start compiling a list of applicable experiences AS YOU DO THEM, rather than waiting till fall of your senior year to try and remember all the activities you participated in.  Attached is a sample activities and work page that you can save on your desktop and update as you engage in an extracurricular activity, while the number of house, project leader, and contact info, etc are still available .  Also, you can begin to reflect on the activities and start brainstorming ideas for a personal statement. Trust me, needing to fill out AMCAS is closer than you think!

 

OU Fall Timeline- Juniors


Sophomore Timeline and Sample AMCAS Activities Page

September 15, 2014

I had the pleasure of speaking at last week’s OBMA meeting. Heres some of the valuable information you missed.  Dr. Vanterpool and Dr. Moss provided their insights as well!  Please make an effort to attend the meetings arranged for your benefit!

For sophomores, one additional focus for you should be beginning to/ continuing to be involved in extracurricular activities. The AMCAS activities and work experience section is a daunting section that will take more time than you think.  One way to save yourself the hassle is to start compiling a list of applicable experiences AS YOU DO THEM, rather than waiting till fall of your senior year to try and remember all the activities you participated in.  Attached is a sample activities and work page that you can save on your desktop and update as you engage in an extracurricular activity, while the number of house, project leader, and contact info, etc are still available .  Also, you can begin to reflect on the activities and start brainstorming ideas for a personal statement. Trust me, needing to fill out AMCAS is closer than you think!

 

OU Fall Timeline – Sophomore

Please feel free to contact us at healthou.org@gmail.com with any questions.


Freshman Timeline and Study Tips

September 15, 2014

I had the pleasure of speaking at last week’s OBMA meeting. Heres some of the valuable information you missed.  Dr. Vanterpool and Dr. Moss provided their insights as well!  Please make an effort to attend the meetings.  Valuable information is shared that you don’t want to miss.

OU Fall Timeline – Freshman


Have the best day ever!

August 19, 2014

After  a summer that seemed far too short, WE ARE BACK!!!! Back and excited about the start of a new school year.   HealthOU had the opportunity to connect with some of the incoming Biology / Biomedical Sciences majors and it was fun to see the excitement and anticipation. Wishing you all a great first  day of classes!  Hope its one of the best days of your life :)

Have_the_best_day_ever

1.  Start strong.

2.  Study everyday!  Yup, you read that right.  STUDY EVERYDAY!  It will make life immensely easier come test time, if you build daily upon what you learned the day before.  Review everyday after class for your core classes ( at the very least).

3. Don’t forget to have fun!

Next week, after things settle down a bit, we’ll post our fall timelines for each classification, so you’ll know what you should be doing to stay in the game and on track for working towards your goal of professional school.

 

 


Public Health Professional – Alyson M. Gray

April 14, 2014
Alyson Gray and her family

Alyson Gray and her family

Last week, we touched briefly on the vast world of Public Health, the next two posts will try to highlight that by featuring two public health professionals and their experience.

 

 

Health OU: What is your current job title?

  • My current job title is Project Data Manager.

 

HealthOU: What does your job entail?

  • I currently work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA within the Center for Global Health as an independent contractor; and my work is based in the Domestic Unit of the Malaria Branch (Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria). As a Project Data Manager, I am primarily responsible for maintaining an accurate database and analyzing data for all patients treated with Artemether lumefnatrine (Coartem) in the United States. My involvement with surveillance reports for this particular drug has an ultimate goal of evaluating the safety and effectiveness of Coartem in pediatric and adult patients (U.S. and foreign residents) diagnosed with malaria. In addition to my main responsibilities, I have the opportunity to respond to public inquiries about malaria; participate in data management for other drugs used to treat malaria; and present findings at major scientific conferences in collaboration with Novartis.

 

HealthOU: How has your background as a Biology major been beneficial to you in your current position?

  • My background as a Biology major prepared me for several of my graduate school courses such as infectious disease epidemiology, environmental health, tropical infectious diseases, and cancer epidemiology. These classes, in turn, gave me the theoretical knowledge I needed to be efficient in the practice of public health. I strongly believe that my strong science background acquired at Oakwood helped me to better comprehend the lectures presented in graduate school, prepare scientifically sound research papers, and produce quality results in the field.

 

HealthOU: A large part of the reason students pursue healthcare is because they have a desire to help people.  How do you feel that your current position allows you the opportunity to fulfill this desire or have a positive impact on the lives of others?

  • I feel that my role at the CDC positively impacts the lives of others because I am contributing to a continual effort to keep the general population of our country healthy. Malaria was eradicated from the United States in the early 1950s, but it is still considered endemic in many of the world’s poorest nations. My work in the domestic unit of the Malaria branch (CDC) helps to keep the United States free from malaria transmission, and to identify areas of the world that need aggressive action toward eradication.

 

HealthOU: What were your academic goals and aspirations upon starting college?

  • When I started college, my goal was to become a pediatric cardiologist or a dermatologist. I had my plan all mapped out to attend medical school, complete my residency, and delve into the specialty of my choice. However, God had other plans for my life.

 

HealthOU: Did those goals change at all?  How so?  What were some of the factors that led to those changes?

  • My goals didn’t truly change until after graduation. During my junior and senior, I entertained the thought of pursuing a career in public health but I didn’t know what steps to take and I felt pressured to continue on the path to a career in medicine. After completing my first year of graduate school, I knew that public health was my calling.

 

HealthOU: Did you pursue any additional degrees or training after Oakwood / prior to obtaining your current position?

  • Yes. I attended the Ryals School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and obtained a Master of Public Health degree. My concentrations during my graduate studies were International Health and Epidemiology.

 

HealthOU: Were there any resources or websites that you found helpful as you explored different options for your career?

  • Yes. I often visited the following websites while I was in graduate school to keep me informed and to explore different career options.

http://apha.org/

http://ceph.org/

http://www.aspph.org/

http://www.cdc.gov/

 

HealthOU: Were there any mentors or advisors who were helpful as you explored different career options?

  • Yes. While I attended Oakwood, Dr. Gullo was very supportive of my potential for a career in research. I took his research and independent study course, and he provided guidance on how to effectively collect data and analyze it. In addition, Dr. Schmidt’s meticulous way of checking the weekly article reviews prepared me, and gave me the keen eye I needed for submitting my work for publication. In graduate school, my advisor, Dr. Pauline Jolly, was very instrumental in my development. Her guidance in field epidemiology, data collection and analysis, and report writing, undoubtedly refined my skills in public health practice.

 

HealthOU: How did you specifically end up in your current position?

  • I originally worked as an Oak Ridge Institution for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow with the Division of STD Prevention, CDC for 9 months. Before my fellowship ended, I began looking for jobs and was selected to work for the Malaria Branch as an independent contractor. Before I landed the first fellowship, I diligently searched for positions for a period of 11 months. Persistence is certainly key when searching for positions after graduation.

 

HealthOU: Would you recommend your current profession?  Why? 

  • Absolutely. Public health is a career path that has so much to offer because there are a myriad of opportunities within the profession. You can work as an epidemiologist, college/graduate professor, medical doctor in the U.S public health service, health educator, environmental health scientist, or a health behavior specialist, just to name a few.

 

HealthOU: What are some of the most fulfilling / rewarding aspects of your job?

  • Now that I am married with a daughter, I am most appreciative of the flexibility of my work schedule. I have the option of working from home periodically and my colleagues are family friendly. In addition, having the chance to impact the health of large groups of people by the results that I produce through active surveillance is deeply rewarding.

 

HealthOU: What are you future professional aspirations / goals?

  • I plan to complete my academic studies by pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology and then continue to work for the CDC, possibly in infectious disease or cancer prevention. I am also exploring the idea of serving as an adjunct professor later in my career at the CDC.

 

HealthOU: What advice would you offer to a current undergraduate student who is questioning his or her interest in medicine and is unsure what direction to choose?

  • My advice would be to explore all of your options. There is nothing wrong with choosing a different branch of healthcare. Becoming a physician or a dentist is fantastic, but becoming a scientist or public health professional who conducts the research that medical practice is based on is just as fantastic. You can achieve whatever you desire!

 

HealthOU: What specific advice can you offer to someone who may be interested in pursuing a career in epidemiology?

  • First, majoring in any of the sciences or math will provide a strong foundation for graduate studies in Epidemiology. Secondly, choosing a graduate program that has a strong mentoring and research program will be essential in preparation for the field, lab, or office positions. Lastly, acquire as much experience as you can while in school. I suggest working part time for a state health department, volunteering with non-profit organizations, or assisting graduate professors with major research assignments.

 

 

Alyson Gray is a 2005 graduate of Oakwood University. She is a native New Yorker, who currently resides in Georgia with her family. Her favorite texts are:   “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13; “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1. In her spare time she enjoys singing (praise team/choir), teaching piano, sports (basketball, swimming, working out), Pathfinder and youth ministry.

 


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