Alumni Profile – Keri McLean – Small

January 24, 2013

Plans are static.  They change.  It is not uncommon to enter college with a goal in mind and along the way, the Lord takes you down a different path, be that through divine appointments with inspiring individuals, closed doors, or open windows.  Regardless of the plan you had in mind for yourself , hands down, and without question, the plan God has for you is infinitely better.  Don’t be afraid to follow His lead if it seems like He’s calling you to change your plan!

Today’s alumni profile features Mrs. Keri McLean – Small a Ph.D student at Meharry.


HealthOU: What is your current job title?

KMS: Doctoral Candidate,  Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology. 

HealthOU: What does your job entail?


65% Conducting animal behavioral and molecular experiments in the lab

20% reading and being familiar with literature relevant to my research topic

9% writing manuscripts for peer reviewed publication

5% presenting my findings at local/ national/ international scientific meetings

1% mentoring/training undergraduates and graduate students in techniques used in the lab.

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

KMS: My background in Biology has been  very beneficial, particularly in the coursework I had to take during my first few years in graduate school. I quickly realized that my classmates that were not biology/biochem  majors struggled to grasp some of the concepts presented because they did not have the proper foundation. My background in biology provided me with the foundation to to build upon my knowledge and helped in areas of critical thinking and problem solving in my research.

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?

KMS: My current position allows me the opportunity to help people on a much larger scale than I would be able to as, for example, a clinician.  The work we do is very translational or “bench to bedside” in nature and our findings from studying disorders often lead to development of pharmacological therapies to help patients suffering from the diseases we study or diseases with similar pathologies. I believe that as a scientist you have the ability to help far more people that you would as a clinician because you are contributing to a knowledge base that will be used and built upon long after you are gone. In addition, much of the work scientist do provides the information in textbooks that healthcare professionals study to prepare themselves to treat patients. Scientist also make up the majority of medical and dental school professors and so we have the unique opportunity to train and make a positive impact on not only health professionals of the future but also the patients they will serve.

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

KMS: Like most biology majors, when I came to Oakwood my goal was to become a physician. I shadowed an anesthesiologist in high school and during my experience decided I wanted to pursue a career in Anesthesiology.

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

 KMS: They most certainly did! Well after quite a bit of introspection I decided that going to medical school was not for me for a number of reasons, 1) I did not like being around people when they were sick because of the germs and communicability of their condition, 2) After talking to people in medical school, I decided that medical school was not an environment that I would flourish in, I much preferred “interest based” learning and the quantity of material you had to learn in the short time frame of medical school was not attractive to me. I also liked to problem solve and try and discover new things which can be difficult to do as a clinician for a number of reasons. There was a time that I was quite distraught because I knew that I didn’t want to be a doctor but I didn’t want to just teach (at the time I thought those were my only two options with a Biology degree). I was blessed to be apart of the RISE grant in the Biology department and did a summer internship in the Neurobiology department at UAB with Dr. Harry Sontheimer. And I really liked the environment and the encouragement of discovery and autonomy all the while still helping people in a medical capacity.  It was during that summer experience that I began to consider a career in biomedical research.

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

KMS: No,  after I graduated Oakwood I entered graduate school at Meharry in the fall.

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

 KMS: The website that I have found most helpful is it has an assessment based on your interests and skills set to suggest career options tailored to you and it also helps you set up an individual development plan that has been very helpful to me during my graduate matriculation.

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

KMS: Yes, Dr. Rand and Dr. Vanterpool at Oakwood and my summer internship mentors, Dr. Susan Lyons and Harold Sontheimer, were very supportive in answering questions about life as a scientist and guide me into gaining admission into graduate school.

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

KMS: RISE took its participants on a few graduate school tours and I was able to tour Meharry Medical College when I was considering a career in medicine and I remember them mentioning they had a graduate program that has the record of graduating the most African- American PhD’s in basic science research and that fact made a lasting impression on me. I took advantage of the GRE prep through the RISE grant at Oakwood. Took the GRE and applied to a few graduate schools. I was accepted at Meharry and two other schools but decided that Meharry was the place for me.  Like most PhD programs you are able to meet with possible principal investigators that are conducting research in a field of your interest and do a rotation project in their lab. After doing three different rotations I decided to do my thesis work in my current mentors lab, Dr. Sukhbir Mokha, where we study gender-related differences in pain disorders. My pre-existing experience in neuroscience and interest in women’s health helped me make my decision.

HealthOU: Would you recommend your current profession?  Why? 

KMS: Yes, I think there are many opportunities particularly for minorities in biomedical research and the satisfaction in such a growing field is unparalleled.

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

KMS: Discovering something that no one else has ever studied is unparalleled. I enjoy the independence and autonomy of being a scientist, and I also love being an expert on what I am researching. Although I don’t do experiments on human, I get to regularly do surgical procedures on animals and aid in their recovery and care.

HealthOU: What are you future professional aspirations / goals?

KMS: I’m interested in doing research to elucidate the health disparity of the high prevalence of  psychiatric disorders in women. I’d like to work with a research group consisting of basic scientists, clinicians, and public health officials to work towards educating the public on maintaining mental health, debunk some of the myths and stigmas associated with mental health disorders, and conduct research on developing effective therapies for common mood disorders that particularly effect the female and adolescent demographic.

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?

KMS: First I would tell that individual that it is okay to question your career interests at any point in your career, don’t beat yourself up about it but educate yourself on the other options and make an informed decision about what is best for you. You are the one that has to live with your decision so don’t sell yourself short by being concerned about what others will think or say.  Many of us come from backgrounds where the belief that “being a physician” is the greatest job one could ever hope to get, but that is far from the truth.There are so many different possibilities and career opportunities in the health field that are available and equally satisfying. I would say to take a career interest assessment test to see what careers are most suitable to your interests, and seek out people in different fields to find out what their day to day job experience is like and how they got there. My favorite question to ask these individuals was,  ‘what do you most love and hate about your job the most?’ Also, talk to a mentor you trust to give you sound advice and direction on preparing for graduate school or medical school. College is a time for exploration so make the most of it and make use of the resources at your fingertips.

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

KMS: I would encourage them to have as much research experience as possible prior to entering graduate school. It will definitely ease the transition from undergraduate to graduate level education. Having research experience will help you decide what discipline of research you are interested in and will save you time when you get to graduate school. Also, try to get at least one publication out of your research experience it will make your grant applications and scholarship applications more successful and potential mentors are very impressed by this. Finally, try to decide what you would like to do with your PhD when you finish grad school. It will be helpful in deciding what training opportunities you take advantage of and identify potential mentors in the field that can give you sound advice and guide your career.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper yo and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future!  Jeremiah 29:11

Transitions and new beginnings – Part 2

September 17, 2012

By now, the new school year is under way, and all the jitters and nervousness about staring a new year are out of the way.  College students weren’t the only ones preparing to  embark on a new adventure in the last few weeks.  Across the country, July 1st marked the date when brand new medical residents were hitting the wards officially as doctors and a few weeks later new medical and dental school students were picking up 500 page syllabi ( per class) in preparation for four years of training.   The excitement and anxiety associated with starting something new is universal and is just another part of the journey.  This month, we’ll hear from two alumni as they reflect on their experiences on their first day as a surgery resident and first day as a dental student.

Ashley Akins is originally for Atlanta, Georgia.  She is currently a first year dental student at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. In her spare time she enjoys exercising, painting, cooking, watching informative documentaries, and spending time with loved ones.

 In a word, how would you describe your first day as a dental student?


 What’s your most vivid memory from that day?

My most vivid memory was initially walking into the room and meeting my first classmate, she was very kind and we clicked instantly. We have already started to build a good friendship and we study very well together too.

 How did you feel when you woke up that morning?

Anxious, whenever something new happens in my life that is a rather “big deal”, that is generally my first emotion.

How did you feel by the end of the day?

I felt eager and confident to take on my future classes.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring healthcare professional

What ever your goal is go for it and DO NOT give up! I did not get into dental school the first time around. Though my grades were good, my dental admissions test scores were not the best which resulted in me having to retake the test. This was discouraging for me, but I knew that through much prayer and fasting, this was the field where God was leading me. Additionally, I now realize that I did not get in immediately because there was some growth and personal development that need to take place in my own life before I could move to the next step. Ultimately, if you have a strong desire to go into the healthcare field or you know that God is leading you there, just trust that God has a plan for your life, be willing to work hard and be faithful to Him.

Transitions and new beginnings

September 13, 2012

By now, the new school year is under way, and all the jitters and nervousness about staring a new year are out of the way.  College students weren’t the only ones preparing to  embark on a new adventure in the last few weeks.  Across the country, July 1st marked the date when brand new medical residents were hitting the wards officially as doctors and a few weeks later new medical and dental school students were picking up 500 page syllabi ( per class) in preparation for four years of training.   The excitement and anxiety associated with starting something new is universal and is just another part of the journey.  This month, we’ll hear from two alumni as they reflect on their experiences on their first day as a surgery resident and first day as a dental student.

Dr. Walywn-Tross on his graduation day.

Dr. Loren Walywn-Tross is originally from Grand Rapids, MI.  He attended Oakwood University, and subsequently attended the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. His professional aspirations include pursuing international medicine, by serving as a  missionary physician or working with Doctors Without Borders. In his spare time, he likes to read, play sports and try new activities and foods.

I”m still getting acclimated to the 3 hour time change so waking up at 5am (8am east coast time) is no problem. I put on my uniform, ensuring that all my insignia is in its proper place. I gather my stethoscope, pen light, moleskin note book, make sure I have my fresh new hospital badge and head out the door.

I finally make it into my workroom and change into my scrubs, Danskos, and fresh white coat. I look up the latest email from the AMA and NEJM to peruse the newest medical news. 0700 rolls around and I head up to the conference room for general surgery intern lecture. As I walk (my doctorly, brisk, don’t talk to me cuz I’m busy, walk) I break into a cold sweat – I have no clue as to what the topic for the lecture is. I shrug it off; today is not the day to show weakness. I break into a cold sweat again remembering that Dr. S. is kinda ruthless during morning lecture. Luckily, when I get there, he realizes that it’s the first day and decides to take it easy as we talk about colorectal anatomy.

9 am finally rolls around and general surgery clinic finally starts. According to the nurse’s census, we have approximately 50 morning clinic patients and 50 afternoon clinic patients. I know that I’m an intern, but I shrug it off. I’ve been training for four years to handle this. Thankfully, though, there were 3 other interns, 2 upper level residents, as well as 2 physician assistant students. I will be ok. I worked up breast masses, hernias (umbilical, and inguinal), bariatric pre ops and post ops. I was finally able to order my own diagnostic studies and prescribe drugs.

The transition between medical student to physician is quite drastic. I went from waiting for attending physicians to perform breast and hernia exams, to performing thee exams alone (with a chaperone), and reporting the results. Although “pimping” from the attendings didn’t change, I now was able to proficiently apply the knowledge I had gained. The plethora of medical concepts, that before were to me just theory, now became the reality that guided my practice. In addition, I became the one helping the medical students/PA students decide what was important, assisting them in forming differential diagnosis, and directing them on potential management plans and/or where to find the necessary information.
At the end of my first day, I felt accomplished. I was finally a physician, and my first day was spent optimizing the population’s health via surgery. That feeling lasted until I realized that I forgot to pre admit the 8 patients that I had scheduled for surgery. After clinic, I spend the next 1 hour and a half pre admitting these patients, ordering labs and imaging as well as entering pre op orders in their inpatient record.  At the end of the day, I was still the same person; however my role had drastically changed. From a student, I had become a teacher. My dreams were finally a reality.

Promoting Cultural Competence and Diversity in Healthcare- Dr.Lynn Gray

April 13, 2012

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Lynn Gray about diversity in medicine, mentorship, and the lack of minorities in the  healthcare profession. Dr. Gray works as an emergency medicine physician in St. Joseph, Michigan.  He was dedicated his career to providing quality healthcare, while promoting cultural competence and diversity in healthcare. Dr. Gray was the first person in his family to attend medical school.  He is happily married and is the father of three adult children – a transplant surgeon, a health-law attorney and a dentist.

HealthOU: Dr. Gray, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed and for your dedication to promoting diversity in healthcare.HealthOU: Promoting diversity in medicine is an obvious passion of yours.  Why do you think cultural competency and a diverse workforce are so important  to our healthcare system ?

Dr. Gray: Here in the US in most communities we serve a diverse population, not just in terms of race/ethnicity, but also in terms of educational level, socio-economic level, religion, sexuality and even such things as physical handicaps. This diversity can lead to disparities and inequities in health care and health care delivery for minority populations. Issues such as access to health care facilities, safe neighborhoods, access to health-promoting diets are a few of the factors that lead to health inequities. In addition to having adequate numbers of providers to serve these populations, the providers must be culturally competent. Most health providers receive no formal training about the cultures of the patients they serve, especially in minority communities. This lack of knowledge about their patients whether intentional or not further promotes stereotyping and other  incompetencies that promote health care delivery disparities. Knowledge about the culture of a patient with hypertension can be almost as important to their treatment as knowledge about anatomy or other “basic sciences” that are taught.        

HealthOU: You were recently appointed as the Medical Director for Diversity at Lakeland Healthcare.  What does that role entail?

 Dr. Gray: As Medical Director, I have two primary roles. First, to help Lakeland in its journey to being a healthcare organization that respects and promotes diversity in its staff and in its approach to patient care. Along with this I (and Lakeland) will promote health equity in our service communities. There are a variety of strategies and tools we will use to work toward these goals, including partnering with other like-minded organizations in the community.

 HealthOU: What are some of the specific projects that your office is working on right now?

Dr. Gray: Currently at Lakeland Regional Health System we are preparing to utilize the COA 360, which is a web-based tool developed by Dr Tom Laviest at the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. This tool should give us insight into the level of cultural competence in several key units in our system, and will help guide our efforts in becoming a culturally competent health care provider.  

HealthOU: In a recent interview, you reference statistics from  the AAMC’s “Missing in Action”  that stated that only 6 percent of physicians, 9 percent of nurses and 5 percent of dentists were minorities”, in your opinion what are some of the reasons why these numbers are so low? 

Dr. Gray:Unfortunately, the society we live in doesn’t value the worth of an equitable, diverse healthcare workforce. In reality, in addition to improving the health of minority communities and reducing the disparities, more diversity of providers will reduce costs of healthcare due to preventable problems that arise out of inequities.  Also, because of the high cost of medical education, a lot of the brightest students in college are choosing other professions that involve less time in school/training with comparable financial returns.     

HealthOU: One of the ways to promote a diverse healthcare workforce is to have good role models and support.  As you progressed through your professional career, were there any physician role models who shaped and guided you along the way?

Dr. Gray: There were two physicians at my church who encouraged me, but did not serve a formal mentoring role. While in residency, I was blessed to have a church member ,who was a surgeon at one of the hospitals I trained at, serve as a mentor. His advice to me about stewardship has been a guiding factor in my life.  

HealthOU: What do you think are some of the benefits of having a physician role model as one goes along his / her journey to becoming a medical professional?

Dr. Gray:In addition to being an encouragement, a mentor can help you mature as a physician and as a person. Also, they may be able to help you avoid some of the pitfalls, even advice about what classes to take. 

HealthOU: If you could design  a program whose goal was to increase diversity in the healthcare profession, what would some of the core elements /features be?

Dr. Gray:First, the healthcare workforce (doctors, nurses, all levels) would be more representative of the numbers of various minority populations in our country. A restructuring of how professional school education is financed, so low-income students would have an equal chance, and students in medical school (and other professional schools) would choose their specialty on non-economic reasons (especially those who consider Primary Care specialties).       

HealthOU:Is there any thing that current young professionals can do to increase diversity in healthcare?

Dr. Gray:They should check to see if their school has a diversity program and if it doesn’t they should try to promote the concept. If in post-graduate training or in practice, they should get involved with organized medicine (state or specialty society) to advocate for diversity. (I am currently on the board of my state medical society, my hospital and my specialty society.)        

HealthOU:What would you say to a high school student or college freshman with dreams of pursuing medicine.  What are some of the essential things they need to do in order to achieve their goal? 

Dr. Gray: I would certainly advise them to be as good of a student as they are capable of, but also be involved with extra-curricular activities to be a well-rounded person. They should talk with young physicians or medical students to get advice on what college courses to take (and which ones they may not need to take, but may hurt their GPA).

HealthOU: Dr. Gray, thank you so much for your time.  Any closing words you would like to share with our HealthOU audience?           

Dr. Gray: With the doctor shortage and the current underrepresentation of minorities in medical school, right now is actually one of the best times to apply since the days of affirmative action. Some schools have a better “track-record” of accepting minority students than others. Do your research and find out which schools are more accepting.



Plan B In Motion – Raquel McNeil

February 20, 2012

Earlier this  month, in our Plan B – Part One post, we presented information on the options that exist for premedical/predental students who will not be entering professional school in the fall.  There you will find over 30 post bacclaureate and Master’s Programs ( and links to various others) that you may apply to as you work on putting together a more competitive application. Remember, less than 50% of applicants to medical and dental school are accepted every year, so don’t be discouraged!   To date, countless Oakwood alumni have participated in postbacclaureate programs and are achieving their goals.

Today we present Oakwood alumna, Raquel McNeil who was recently accepted to medical school after completing a post bacclaureate program at  Lincoln Memorial University. She will offer some insight on how to go about choosing a program and what to expect.

HealthOU: How did you decide to do a postbacc program?

During the fall semester of my senior year at Oakwood, I took the MCAT and I did not have a competitive score. After much prayer, I decided not to apply to medical school; instead I began to look into postbacc programs to attend.

HealthOU: How did you handle the initial disappointment of not entering medical school at the same time as your peers? 

 Although, I was so proud of my friends getting into medical school, I felt confused as to what I was going to do with my life. While all of my friends were receiving their acceptances, I had no guarantee if I was even going to get into a postbacc program. A part of me regretted not applying to medical school, but deep down I knew I was not ready for such a serious challenge. The uncertainty of my future plans made me humbled and made me rely upon God. I realized that I had to stop comparing myself to my friends, and to trust that God was going to lead my medical journey.

HealthOU: What were some of the programs you were looking at when you were choosing a postbacc program?

I was looking into UConn Post-baccalaureate Program, Pre-Health Post-baccalaureate Program at Stonybrook, and Post-baccalaureate Medical Science Program at Lincoln Memorial University.

 HealthOU; How did you narrow it down to your specific program?

To be honest, time was not on my side and I had missed a few deadlines, therefore my choices were limited. Since I was interested in osteopathic medicine, I narrowed my options to osteopathic postbacc programs. I eventually chose, Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) because it was closely associated with Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (DCOM). The MCAT Prep course was another determining factor towards making my decision.

 HealthOU: What were some of the benefits of the program?

 I was guaranteed an interview to Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine contingent upon my fall semester GPA. I was able to take Medical Gross Anatomy (MGA) alongside first year medical students and I will not have to take this course again as a first year medical student at DCOM.

HealthOU: Did doing a postbacc program make your interview process easier?

Yes, I received a guaranteed interview since my grades were competitive.

HealthOU: Would you  recommend your program to other premed students?

 I would recommend it for those who want to strengthen their science background

HealthOU: Describe your program in a bit more detail, what was the curriculum like, learning style, learning environment, etc

The Post-Baccalaureate Medical Science Program (PMSP) at Lincoln Memorial University is located in Harrogate, TN. This postbacc program helps to strengthen academic science background for college graduates that have completed the prerequisites for med school. The PMSP is a full-time program which composes of two semesters. At the end of the program, a certificate of completion is given. The PMSP is a fairly new program, and I was a part of the inaugural postbacc program which began in July 2010. The PMSP is directed by Lincoln Memorial University and is closely affiliated with LMU’s medical school, Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.

 The curriculum included lecture based courses with the exception of the prosection course. During the first semester I had the opportunity to take Medical Gross Anatomy which included a lab. This was by far the most challenging course and made me improve my studying habits. I had the opportunity to join study groups with medical students as well as my fellow postbacc colleagues. My undergrad courses included Microbial Physiology and Molecular Genetics, which were a refreshing review as well as helping me study for the MCAT.

The second semester I only had undergraduate courses, with an option to take a Prosection course (prosecting cadavers). We were required to take Biochemistry, Medical Ethics, Immunology, and other science courses with the requirement of having a full-time status. During this semester, we had the chance to individually study for the MCAT and to prepare for our interview. Unfortunately, the MCAT Prep was not given until the summer after the program was completed. However, the PMSP now provides a Kaplan MCAT Prep course during the summer before classes begin.

For more information for the program you can go to

HealthOU: What were some of the key things you looked for when you were choosing between programs?

First, I wanted to get into a program that would help me improve my MCAT score as well as strengthen my science background. I mainly wanted to get into a postbacc program that was directly affiliated with a medical school (preferably osteopathic med school) to gain a better understanding of what medical school would be like. Also, I wanted more doctor shadowing experiences. 

 HealthOU: What advice or information would you share with a student who is looking atdifferent postbacc programs as they choose the program?

First and foremost, I would suggest to pray and ask God for guidance. Then, I would recommend looking into a master’s degree granting postbacc program to ensure being competitive for medical school applications. Once the programs have been narrowed down, make sure to research how many postbacc students from the particular program have matriculated into medical school. Another important factor is to find a program that will give you the opportunity to take medical school courses to get a feel of the rigorous schedule of med school. For instance, I know a few people that dropped out of my postbacc program because they were not able to handle the intensity of the course load and changed their mind.

 HealthOU: What advice or information would you share with a student as they go through the program about study habits and how to make the best out of the program?

I would advise them to be patient and allow your study habits to be refined. From my experience, the major difference between transitioning from undergrad to the postbacc program was that I was taking all science classes that were challenging. Every class required my full attention and there were no “easy” classes like Oakwood.  I think the best way to succeed in a program is to get along with your fellow classmates and form study groups. Most likely your postbacc program will be small, so the best way to get through the program is to have good communication with your colleagues.

HealthOU: How rigorous was the program?  How many classes did you take?  How were you evaluated / tested? 

 The program was very intense, especially during the first semester with MGA. Additionally, I took about four classes (including MGA lab) which was about 14.50 credit hours. The second semester, I took four undergrad classes that were 13 credit hours. For MGA we were given four lab praticals and four computer based exams. For the undergrad courses, we had in- class exams and quizzes.

 HealthOU: Did you have automatic entry into that medical school as a result of doing the program?

No, I actually did not. Although I received an interview, my MCAT still needed to improve. This was quite discouraging at the time. But I worked very hard and I took the MCAT again with the Kaplan MCAT Prep course provided by LMU. With my exceptional improvement (only by God’s grace), I sent my score to DCOM and they accepted me without another interview! God really worked it out!  From this journey, I have learned that God works things out by His time. It is only by persistence, motivation, and God’s strength that has allowed me to matriculate into medical school this fall! Nothing can beat God’s timing!!!

Raquel McNeil hails from Clearwater, Fl.  She is a 2010 graduate of Oakwood University, where she majored in Biochemistry.  She hopes to pursue a career in Obstetrics and Gynecology.   In her spare time, she likes to read, shop and spend quality time with her friends and family. 

Love and Medicine – Danny and Lauren

February 16, 2012

Continuing with our Love and Medicine Series, today we feature alums Daniel  Bedney (Class of 2008) and Lauren Pedersen-Buck (Class of 2007).

HealthOU: Can you guys tell our HealthOU family a little bit about yourselves.

Lauren: I am from Port Orange, Florida. I graduated from Oakwood in 2007 (when it was still Oakwood College!), where I majored in Biology. I am currently a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University. I’m going into the amazing specialty of Family Medicine. I’m not sure if I will specialize but I’m very interested in women’s health and adolescent medicine.

Danny: I’m from Berrien Springs, Michigan. I graduated from Oakwood University in 2008, majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry. I’m also in my fourth year of medical school at Loma Linda and am pursuing a career in Family Medicine, sub-specializing in Sports Medicine.

HealthOU: How did you guys meet?

We officially met in 2008 during our first year of med school. Between graduating from Oakwood and starting med school I (Lauren) did a one year post-bac program at Loma Linda and that’s how we ended up in the same class for med school.

HealthOU: Were you guys friends at Oakwood?

Lauren: That’s a funny question. Danny and I had one class together at Oakwood; Biochemistry. All I remember is that he was this loud person that sat in the back of the class. He always had something to say! I thought he was stuck up because he was in Aeolians. To be honest, most of my friends were in the same class as me and I did not really know many underclassmen. So I guess the answer is, no, we were not friends at Oakwood.

Danny: No we were not friends at Oakwood. Supposedly we had one class together, I thought we had more, but Lauren pointed out to me that we only had Biochem together. We were in different circles. I knew who she was but I didn’t know her.

HealthOU: How did you make that transition from being friends to now being in a relationship?  

Danny: First I think it’s important to understand we were really good friends throughout medical school. For the first couple years of med school she was in a relationship and I was in different relationships which allowed us to be strictly platonic. Obviously, those relationships did not last. One of my good friends said I should date Lauren but I didn’t want to because I valued our friendship and didn’t know how she would feel about it. Then I thought about it more and I asked myself why wouldn’t I want to be in a relationship with my best friend? So I took her out to eat one night and I brought it up, she was open to it, and the rest is history.

Lauren: I agree with everything Danny said. The transition was a little tricky in my opinion because I have never dated anyone that I was that good of friends with. But it is nice to be with someone who already knew so much about me!

HealthOU: What do you think are some of the pros and cons of dating someone in medicine?

Pros: The biggest pro is that the other person is able to understand what you’re going through because they are going through the same thing! Medical school can be a stressful time and it’s nice to be around someone that understands how you feel. If you are in the same class you can study together if that works for you. And you can share books which saves money! If you decide to get married you can pay off those loans faster too.

Cons: You are both busy so you may not get to spend much time together. In a relationship things aren’t always perfect one hundred percent of the time. Sometimes the added stress of medical school can create tension in a relationship.

HealthOU: The couples we’ve featured thus far for the Love and Medicine series didn’t go to school together, did you guys feel like you saw each other all the time? 

Throughout medical school we have been very good friends. We ran in the same circle so we definitely spent lots of time together socially and studying for exams and such. Then, our third year we were on the same rotation schedule so we definitely saw each other way more than if we had not been placed on the same schedule. That year we also both moved to the same apartment complex (that was not planned!) and currently live within walking distance of each other. This is helpful when we are on really time consuming rotations because we can still visit with each other without the hassles of having to drive a long way.

HealthOU: What’s next for you guys ?

Well, the main thing is we are waiting for Match Day, March 16th! We recently submitted our rank order list. We are couples matching so we will be attending the same residency program. Then of course there is graduation and all of the planning that goes with that. We recently took our senior portraits which really made all of this feel so real! We are trying to spend as much time as possible with our friends before graduation. As for us as a couple, the plan is to continue our relationship into residency and see where the Lord leads us!


Special thanks to Lauren and Danny for sharing their experience with us!  Best of luck with the Match!

Love and Medicine – Dr. and Dr. Cheres

February 14, 2012

“I am going to medical school: will I ever find love or will I always be seen as a Meal Ticket?”

“Are female doctors less likely to get married than women in other careers?

You’ve heard of love and marriage, but what about love and medicine?  Is it possible?  Are the two entities mutually exclusive? Finding love while pursuing one’s career can be challenging (to say the least). The median age for first marriage is 28.2 years for males and 26.1 for females.  Considering that future physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals usually find their noses stuck in a book from 22 – 26; and beyond, for those who will pursue residency, wondering when you’ll find time for love is a legitimate concern.

This month, in a nod to Valentine’s Day, we’ll feature several couples who managed to start and maintain happy healthy relationships despite the rigors of pursuing a professional degree.

Dr. and Dr. Cheres on their wedding day.

Abdelle L. Ferdinand Cheres hails from the beautiful twin Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago.  She is a 2005 graduate of Oakwood College, where she majored in Biochemistry. After doing internship in Trinidad, she went on to do medical oncology.  She will be starting her internal medicine residency in Cleveland, OH in  June.  In her spare time she likes to play the clarinet and piano, do all sorts of puzzles, read John Grisham books, play tennis and watch football (EAGLES!).

Christ-Roi Cheres is from Haiti.  After completing residency in Brooklyn, NY, he moved on to work as a hospitalist in Alliance, OH.  In his spare time he likes to play soccer, play various games on the Wii, watch the news, read, take long walks, teach Abdelle Creole and have fun with his wife. 

HealthOU: So, how did you two meet?

Abdelle: Christ-Roi and I officially met on the fourth floor of Coney Island hospital in Brooklyn, NY.  I was a third year medical student and he was a first year resident. 

 HealthOU: Was it love at first sight 🙂 ? 

Abdelle:  I was not attracted to him right away.  At the time I was just focused on finishing and doing well in medical school.  It took me a really long time to finally figure out who he was trying to be.  Dating men was the FURTHEST thing from my mind.

 Christ-Roi:  I think Abdelle was attracted to me right away.  For months she would stare at me in the elevator and in the cafeteria.   She was too shy to say hello though.  As for me, I cannot say that I was immediately attracted to her because she was in a “short coat” 

 HealthOU: Did the fact that he was the intern and you were the medical student affect your feelings for each other or how you two interacted with each other?

Abdelle:  As I stated previously, I honestly did not have feelings for Christ-Roi until WAY after we met.  I had no interest in dating.  Our interactions remained casual – talking in hallways, talking at the bus stop, etc.  Eventually we started going to church together.  Our interactions were not at all hindered because he was an intern.

 Christ-Roi – Yes, I had to maintain my professionalism even though I liked her a little.  The more we interacted, the more she opened up. She was always smiling at me and I got to know who she was.  She was a smart, eloquent, bright, beautiful, charming woman.  She had a magnetic personality that drew me closer and closer. 

 HealthOU: Did you wait until after you were no longer on service together to start dating?

Abdelle: We started dating after I completed my internal medicine rotation and started surgery.  We were never together during internal medicine and we were never on the same team.  We worked on the same floor of the hospital but different teams for a month. In ICU, he worked at night and I worked during the day. 

 HealthOU: How long were you guys long distance?

Christ-Roi: We were long distance for 2 years.

 HealthOU: How did you handle the challenges of being long distance on top of busy schedules of two residents?  

Abdelle: Those years were difficult.  Thanks to God, MagicJack, Skype, expensive phone bills, and high tech phones, we were able to maintain and grow our relationship.  Fortunately, my schedule allowed me to have a week off every three months so I would frequently fly to NY to visit him.  He would also fly to Trinidad during his vacations.  Sometimes it got frustrating, especially given the time change, because when I’m on call, he’s not.  When I’m post call and tired, he’s now about to go to work.  However, the sacrifices were well worth it.  Even when we were both tired, the desire was always there to communicate.  I remember falling asleep on the phone many times J

 HealthOU: What are some of the benefits / challenges to dating or marrying someone in the medical profession?  

Abdelle:   I never wanted to marry another doctor because I always felt that we would talk about medicine all day.  However, since he was always a few years ahead of me, he challenges me daily to know and study more.  Also, because he has been where I have been, he’s a great support system and there is never a short fuse when I’m just too tired to do anything. 

 Christ-Roi:   Because we are in the same field, we always have something to talk about.  In addition, we further each other’s knowledge and keep the other sharp.  I also think that having a wife who knows the demands of the profession is a bonus especially when issues could easily arise regarding working hours.

 HealthOU: Thank you both so much for sharing your story.  Blessings to you in the upcoming year!

*A big thanks to Dr. and Dr. Cheres for sharing their story with us, look out for more stories of love and medicine this week.  *

Happy Valentine’s Day !

Physician Profile : Dr. Zaria Murrell

January 24, 2012

In recent years there has been increased awareness of the impending need for more primary care physicians in the workforce, but there is also the need for surgical specialists and primary care subspecialists.   In the coming weeks, we will feature some of our alumni and friends of Oakwood University who are currently pursuing careers in various subspecialties where there is a greater need for an African American presence.

Dr. Zaria Murrell was born in Brooklyn NY, and is the eldest of five children.  She was raised in Queens, NY, before attending college at Howard University.  She completed her medical education at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Although she herself, is not a graduate of Oakwood University, 2 of her siblings and her husband – Michael are, and she served the Huntsville area for several years as a general and bariatric surgeon before going back into the trenches for fellowship.  She is the proud mother of two children and enjoys running long distances, studying God’s word, travelling to foreign countries with her family,  and participating in medical missionary work.  She is currently a pediatric surgery fellow at the University of Louisville.

HealthOU: What are some of the factors that influenced your decision to pursue a career in surgery?
I have always loved fixing things… a career in surgery is rewarding in that I know I have helped correct something that is wrong and is causing pain to the patients: whether it is repairing an hernia, treating a baby born with gastroschisis (intestines protruding through a hole in the abdominal wall) with a silo followed by a gradual return of the intestines to the abdominal cavity with closure of the abdominal wall defect, or an appendectomy for acute appendicitis, I am always excited about being used as an instrument to bring healing to a variety of patients with surgical issues.

HealthOU: As I understand it, you worked as a general surgeon for several years, but later decided to pursue training in several different areas,  what motivated that decision? 
I have always loved the discipline of pediatric surgery and as a younger surgery resident, I had every intention to enter into the field.  However, I was also interested in the new technologies in surgery in the areas of laparoscopic and robotic surgery as I advanced through residency.  So when the time came to make a decision, I chose a fellowship in mininally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery.  When I completed my fellowship, I was married with an infant and my husband wanted to return to college to study theology at Oakwood College.  We moved to Huntsville and I worked as a laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon for 7 years there.  But after being in practice for 5 years and working with a pediatric surgeon that had moved to Huntsville, my heartstrings were pulling me back to pediatric surgery and in the Fall of 2008 I decided to enter the pediatric surgery match.  Realizing that I was not a competitive applicant when I didn’t match in Spring of 2009,  God provided me the opportunity to become the Fetal Surgery Fellow and then the Pediatric Vascular Anomalies Fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) from Fall 2009-June 2011.  However, I still needed to complete an accredited pediatric surgery fellowship program.  Once again God provided!!  Two weeks after completing my Vascular Anomalies Fellowship, in mid-July of 2011, I was working on fetal research projects at CCHMC and I received an email about a sudden opening of an accredited pediatric surgery fellowship position in Louisville, KY. Within hours, I submitted my application, the next day I arrived in Louisville for an interview and by the time I arrived home, I had an email saying I got the job!!! WOW!!  So now I am the pediatric surgery fellow at University of Louisville since August 2011 (its a 2 year fellowship).  God Rocks!!!

HealthOU: Who were / are some of your professional mentors thus far? 
My former surgical partner when I first moved to Huntsville – Dr. Frederick Cason (who is now the chief of surgery at the VA hospital in Cleveland, OH) and of course the spirit-filled pediatric surgeon who felt impressed to come to Huntsville and encouraged me to return to a pediatric surgery fellowship  – Dr. James Gilbert!  I also have several mentors from my surgical residency at State University of  New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn: Drs. Francesca Velcek, Brian Gilchrist and John Kral who also encouraged me to return to pediatric surgery fellowship if that’s where my heart led me.

HealthOU: What’s your biggest motivation?
Jesus…. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

HealthOU: What are some steps a current premed student can take if they’re interested in going into  a general surgery or a surgical subspecialty?
If you really enjoy human anatomy, surgery might be the field for you.  Try to shadow a surgeon for a day or two to see if you like the environment.  Surgery is physically demanding with long days, lots of standing, but is very rewarding!

HealthOU: What are some steps a current medical student can take if they’re interested in going into general surgery or a surgical specialty?
Of course, get good grades in the first two years of medical school.
Be yourself first of all… Search deep inside and ask yourself while on your rotation on surgery, do I really love this and can I live like this?  Communicate well with your interns, residents, fellows and attendings.  Read about your surgical cases before going to the OR: i.e. know the differential diagnosis for right lower or upper quadrant pain. Don’t be afraid to ask thoughtful questions.

HealthOU: What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were an undergraduate?                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I had good study habits, was very disciplined in college and had opportunities to work at the local hospital which was a great experience.
College is a great time to make lasting friendships and to enjoy ‘growing up,’  but study habits formed in college will have an impact on you in medical school, so choose wisely!
Take an MCAT review course or study as many questions as you can get your hands on:  a good MCAT score can make all the difference in obtaining scholarships!

HealthOU: What do you think are some of the reasons that there are so few minorities in surgical specialties?
There are few minorities in medicine but considering that only about 10-15% of each medical school class goes into the discpline of surgery it makes for a small number.
But there are more than you think:  the Society of Black Academic Surgeons provides mentors in surgery. Check out their website.

HealthOU: What does a typical day for you entail?
As a pediatric surgery fellow, I typical arrive at work at 05:45 to round on babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), then do surgery rounds with the residents from 06:30-07:30; NICU teaching rounds from 07:30-08:00, then, depending on what cases I have assigned myself and the residents to, we are in the operating room from 08:00- 16:00.  In between all the operative cases, we are seeing new consults in the emergency room or NICU, discharging patients that need to go home, etc.  It’s quite busy but the day goes by fast!

HealthOU: What advice / insight do you have to offer to a women who are interested in pursuing a career in surgery, and further specializing as you have?
As I said before, choose wisely!!  Pray hard and ask God for guidance, realizing that you have to really love surgery to choose such a demanding lifestyle.  If you have a husband before entering your chosen discipline, ask him how the long hours away from home affect him.

HealthOU: What advice would you offer to yourself  10 years ago?
Just do it!!! I was slightly intimidated by the competitiveness of getting a pediatric surgery fellowship when I was younger but the truth be told… I wouldn’t change a thing!  I love the path I have followed and I have  prayed every step of the way. God knew what was best for me!

HealthOU: How do you balance your demanding work schedule and a family?
It’s tough now that I am a fellow again: but spending quality time with the kids on the nights I am home – reading, cooking, doing their homework, and having worship with them, especially now that they are older (my son is 10 and my daughter 8) has been a joy! They have distinctly different personalities and gifts.  Also, my kids know that they can call me anytime and if I’m not operating, I will chat with them. My husband is a Godsend made just for me!  We’ve been married for 11 years and I am still learning more things about him that make me love him more each day!

American Pharmacists Month – Dr. Sachoy Fowler Pharm.D.

October 28, 2011

As American Pharmacists Month draws to a close, I’m happy to feature Sachoy Fowler PharmD.  One of the goals of HealthOU is to bring awareness to the variety of professions within healthcare outside of medicine and dentistry and the diverse uses of a strong background in the sciences.  One such profession is Pharmacy.  Like medicine and dentistry a career in pharmacy provides the opportunity to work in a hospital or private, or government setting all while helping to serve others.   Earlier this month, we featured Dr. Nadeje Aurubin, today we’ll hear from Dr. Sachoy Fowler.

Sachoy is a 2005 graduate of Oakwood College and a recent graduate of the Howard University School of Pharmacy in Washington D.C.  She was born on the island of Jamaica and currently works as a pharmacist at a retail pharmacy chain in Virginia.  She enjoys cooking and traveling in her spare time and plans to open a pharmacy in her native country in the near future.

Dr. Fowler and her mother at her graduation from the Howard University School of Pharmacy

HealthOU: How did you end up going into  pharmacy?

S.F. I was a PreMed student at Oakwood;  because that was really all that was preached to me; medical school or dental school. We had a career fair and Auburn School of Pharmacy was there. I told one of the professors I worked for (Dr. J. Durant),  that I was thinking about applying for pharmacy school and she encouraged me because she thought it would be a better fit for me  than medical school. I reluctantly took the PCAT and did very well, so I decided to apply. It seemed that was where God wanted me to be as well because everything worked out and I was accepted to Howard University School of Pharmacy and graduated in May 2011.

HealthOU: What do you love the most about what you do?

I enjoy the patient interaction. Its what drives me to go to work every day. I enjoy giving patients medication advice – within the scope of my practice of course. I also value the trust that exists between patients and their pharmacist.

HealthOU: What are the perks of your job / pharmacy in general (compared to other professions in healthcare)

S.F. Believe it or not even though we are in the numbers game in the retail pharmacy sector, I believe we have a lot of face time with the individual patients. There are many who cannot afford to go to the doctor’s office and are looking for remedies for common ailments and when they come into a pharmacy they trust that you, the pharmacist, know what to give them to help them. You are also able to go beyond what a physician can do, due to time constraints, like in depth explanations of  medication side effects and other pharmacological effects of drugs as well as how to take the medications that have been prescribed to them.

HealthOU:  What is one of the biggest misconceptions about your profession?

S.F. I have to say it is “pill counting”. That is really a pharmacy technician’s job. I would be crazy not to acknowledge that there are many people who have no clue what goes on in a pharmacy, whether it is in your local community pharmacy or hospital or elsewhere. It is hard work and we are trained intensely for the job. We are within our own rights Doctors of pharmacy and registered pharmacists. We are held accountable for maintaining accurate records and ensuring that patients received the medication which physicians have prescribed them among many other things.

Another misconception is how large the field really is. We have several areas of pharmacy which Nadeje mentioned. Our profession is extremely more diverse than people may think.

It’s American Pharmacist Month

October 13, 2011

One of the goals of HealthOU is to bring awareness to the variety of professions within healthcare outside of medicine and dentistry and the diverse uses of a strong background in the sciences.  One such profession is Pharmacy.  Like medicine and dentistry a career in pharmacy provides the opportunity to work in a hospital or private, or government setting all while helping to serve others.   This month, we’ll hear from two Oakwood graduates who went on to pursue a career in pharmacy.

Nadeje (front row, second from left) at her residency graduation

Nadeje Aurubin is  originally from Miami, FL, where she attended Greater Miami Academy. She is a 2004 graduate of Oakwood College.  She completed her  Doctor of Pharmacy Degree at Mercer University (Atlanta, Ga) in 2009 and went on to complete  pharmacy practice residency at Mayo Clinic.  She is currently a pharmacist at  the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Miami, FL. Outside of work, she likes to read, go shopping and participate in cultural arts.

HEALTHOU: How did you decide to go into pharmacy?
N.A.  I really had an interest in both chemistry and biology and noticed at the time that there was going to be a great demand for pharmacist in the foreseeable future and that pharmacists worked in a variety of settings with a competitive salary.

HEALTHOU: What do you love the most about what you do?  

N.A. I work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and it’s such an honor to serve our nations veterans. They risk it all to fight for life as we know it in the U.S. Everyday I have the opportunity to give back to someone who has fought for our country and thank them for their service.

HEALTHOU: What are some of the perks of your job / pharmacy in general

N.A.   The workplace setting varies from a board room to the operating room. The various areas of pharmacy include: 
Academic pharmacy
Community Pharmacy
Government Agencies
Hospital & Institutional Practice
Independent Ownership
Consulting Pharmacy
Managed Care Pharmacy
Pharmaceutical Industry
Uniformed (Public Health) Service

In addition, I get to work one-on-one with patients. I am the pain management pharmacy specialist, so I manage patients pain medications ranging from Ibuprofen to Fentanyl. I work alongside the MD’s and ARNP’s in the pain clinic at the VA to provide the best pain management to our veterans. Hospital pharmacists also specialize in areas such as cardiology, oncology, infectious disease, internal medicine and so much more

HEALTHOU: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about your profession?

N.A: Pill counting!! I cannot tell the last time I touched a counting tray and spatula. Pharmacy technicians do most of the counting. The profession of pharmacy has much more of a clinical aspect then most people realize. As a PharmD, it is our reprehensibility to know the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, drug interactions, adverse effects and pahrmacothearpy of most prescription and over the counter medication. We are trained to be the drug experts and clinicians rely on us to provide that support to the interdisciplinary team of health care professionals.