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September 11, 2012


"Continuing Our Legacy of Diversity" participants meet and greet one another outside of the Luo Auditorium

"Continuing Our Legacy of Diversity" participants meet and greet one another outside of the Luo Auditorium


More than 200 eager young people streamed into the Luo Auditorium on Saturday morning, September 8, 2012, to participate in Temple University School of Medicine’s “Continuing Our Legacy of Diversity” conference – the first of which is to be an annual event to promote, encourage and assist under-represented minorities in submitting applications to Temple’s medical school in order to pursue their dreams of becoming physicians.


The all-day event, which was also streamed live to another 65 registered online participants, featured seven informative presentations by TUSM faculty; a mid-day sit-down luncheon to enhance informal interaction between the potential students and Temple faculty and Admissions specialists; a panel presentation by current medical students; and a guided tour of the School of Medicine facilities.


Dr. Audrey Uknis, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions and Strategy and Professor of Medicine, warmly welcomed the audience by noting, “This is an exciting time at Temple; the energy is palpable.” She then articulated the mission and vision of Temple University School of Medicine … and gave them valuable tips to help ensure that their med-school application would not be overlooked.


“We don’t just look at your grades: we look at who you are, what you’ve done, and what your level of passion and engagement has been in relation to those activities,” she said. “Medicine is a profession where you serve others – so is this a comfort zone for you?” she asked.


She identified four critical factors that she and her colleagues consider “all important” when assessing candidates for admission to medical school: the candidate’s academic potential, his/her MCAT score, the potential student’s prior exposure to the healthcare environment (either in a hospital, clinic, physician’s office, or through work with an international relief organization), and the quality of the person’s community and volunteer activities.


She also noted that the Experience Section and Personal Statement of the medical school application form have become increasingly more important, especially as the pool of competitive applicants continues to increase. “Try to convey the breadth and depth of your experiences in the narrative section – but don’t shock us!” she advised, explaining that applying to medical school is not like applying to undergraduate school – where trying to stand-out is considered a plus. “If you shock us, you scare us!” she added.


Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers, MD, MPH, FACS, Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief of Temple University Health System, spoke to the participants about the importance of mentorship as they continued their journey to join the medical profession. Mentorship, he explained, is an advisory role in which an experienced ‘master’ guides another individual in their professional development. A strong mentor is not a friend or a parent: rather, it is someone who will commit to regularly providing advice on career goals and development, sharing knowledge, and fostering a protégé’s full potential.


But a viable mentor/mentee relationship is a shared responsibility, cautioned Dr. Rogers. “It’s up to the mentee to choose a mentor carefully and be proactive in building and managing the relationship,” he said. “You must also be willing to accept constructive feedback. Indeed, sometimes the best mentor provides that ‘tough love’ that can take you to the next level where you need to be.”


Additional presentations were provided by Gerald H. Sterling, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Education and Professor of Pharmacology (“Acquiring the Tools for Your Career as a Physician: Medical Education at TUSM”); Kathleen A. Reeves, MD, Associate Dean of Student affairs, Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, and Co-Director of the Center for Bioethics, Urban Health and Policy, and Marla Davis Bellamy, JD, MGA, Co-Director of the Center for Bioethics, Urban Health and Policy (“TUSM Center for Bioethics, Urban Health and Policy: Being a Patient-Centered Urban Physician”); Crystal A. Gadegbeku, MD, FAHA, Associate Professor of Medicine, Chief of Nephrology and Kidney Transplantation, and Co-Director of the Center for Bioethics, Urban Health & Policy (“Temple’s Translational Research Agenda: Bringing Research to the Community”); Raul A. DeLa Cadena, MD, Professor of Physiology and Assistant Dean for Recruitment, Admissions and Retention (“Preparing the Next Generation to Serve the Underserved: Medical School Pipeline Programs and Mentoring”); and Kenyalyn Makone-Anunda, Associate Director of the Office of Academic Affiliates (“Fostering Your Desire to Serve Others: A Window into Student Service Opportunities at TUSM”).


During the mid-day lunch break, a number of participants shared their thoughts about the “Continuing Our Legacy of Diversity” program. Here’s what they had to say:


Patrisa Buster, a 25-year-old graduate of Princeton University who majored in molecular biology, said the program was “really helpful, especially the presentations about the admissions process and curriculum.” Buster said she’s been interested in becoming a physician since high school; and that her interest was further fueled after working as a scribe in a hospital Emergency Department and in EMS for four years. “The program was worth the three-hour drive,” she added, noting that she and her husband had driven that morning from Connecticut to attend the event.


Alex Akoto, who is currently majoring in molecular biology at Princeton, agreed that the information being shared was useful to med school applicants. The 20-year-old senior said that he was looking forward to being able to hear what the Temple medical students had to say.


“I wish I had known about a program like this when I was still in college,” said Bruce Zhang, a recent graduate of New York University with a degree in economics. The 22-year-old felt that both his understanding of economics (“which can be applied to many fields,” he noted) and his current work at Fox Chase Cancer Center would enhance his application to medical school. At this time, he is particularly interested in cancer research.


Twenty-two-year-old Jeanwoo Yoo, another NYU graduate, said his interest in the medical profession began to blossom when he started working in the Emergency Room at Bellevue Hospital. “That experience – especially working with patients – pushed me toward medicine. But I also like science, too,” he said. Yoo, who majored in biology (with a minor in music and Spanish), added: “I’ve never been to an open house for a medical school, and it’s been interesting to see what’s important to the University.”


Opeyemi Owa, a 19-year-old Rutgers University pre-med student who is majoring in biology, found the program to be very worthwhile. “I feel like anyone who is planning on applying to medical school should come because it’s necessary to know exactly what the school is looking for,” she said. “It lets you know how to prepare.” Owa’s interest in becoming a physician was launched 10 years ago – when an anesthesiologist came to her school to talk about her profession. “I was really inspired by her,” said Owa.


For Gloria Nyakundi, a pre-med psychology major at Temple University, the program was a valuable experience. “It’s been really helpful, especially hearing directly from the Admissions people about what they’re looking for,” she said. “It helped me realize where I need to fill in the gaps.” Nyakundi, a native of Kenya, said she always wanted to be in healthcare, but had never thought of becoming a physician until her uncle – a nurse anesthetist – nudged her in that direction. Now, she’s more firmly focused on joining the medical profession “so I can be part of improving health care – both locally and globally.”


Alex Elsehamy, a recent graduate of New York University, said he was “especially excited about hearing from the medical students at Temple.” Currently, the 22-year-old is enrolled in a postbaccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania, and his interest in medical school continues to grow.


“The program has definitely been helpful to me,” said 23-year-old Jennifer Leveque, a graduate of SUNY/Bingham, who moved recently from New York to Philadelphia. Now at Drexel University’s School of Health Professions, the former psychology/biology major said she had been impressed by the faculty presentations – especially those that focused on the diversity and community-based programs that are part of TUSM.


Finally, 18-year-old Leila Sambuli, a biology major at Temple University, said she participated in the event because “I want to make sure that this [medical school] is what I want.” She said she had been very motivated to learn more about community-based programs after listening to the faculty presentations.