Giving New Life to Charles Drew – Introducing “Pulse: The Unofficial Lifeline Guide for Columbia’s Pre-Meds”

Author: Princess Francois, graduating senior from Columbia University

Pulse.   A sign that one is alive, that one is surviving, still in the game. Such represents the energy in which Pulse: The Unofficial Lifeline Guide for Columbia’s Pre-Meds — was created. In writing the manual, our intention was to provide Columbia pre-meds the means to survive and conquer the difficult but workable pre-med journey.

Reflecting on my experiences at Columbia University after recently graduating in May, I would have never imagined the depth and breadth of the accomplishments that I, along with much help, was able to achieve as Co-President of the Charles Drew Pre-medical Society. While leading this minority pre-med society for two years, my mission was to put underrepresented minority pre-meds on the map (both on and off campus) as well as create a strong sense of community for pre-meds through a revitalization of the society.

I recall very vividly entering my first year at Columbia. I declared myself pre-med and pretty quickly was disappointed by the inactivity of the Charles Drew Pre-Medical Society, the only student group dedicated to helping minority pre-meds. I felt like I was on my own in terms of navigating the pre-med curriculum.  It was a struggle in more ways than one. Joining the Charles Drew executive board my sophomore year, I was determined to make the organization active again. In my junior year, I was successfully elected Co-President of Charles Drew along with Brian Lewis, also a junior at the time.   As Co-President, my vision was to not only revive and expand the organization’s activities but to create a brand that would fully capture the group’s passion and its overall mission to increase the number of minorities entering medical school.

We have come a long way.  I helped to expand Charles Drew from 7 executive board members and only 30 general-body members to 15 executive board members, several committees, and more than 200 diverse general-body members. We now have weekly panels, monthly general body meetings, and regular community service projects.  Charles Drew also organizes visits to medical schools and trips to local and regional conferences.  Over the last two years, we also created a peer mentoring group, a new website and Facebook page, a semi-annually published newsletter, and expanded our professional advisory board. These Charles Drew accomplishments were recently recognized with receipt of an Organizational Award along with 9 executive board members receiving individual leadership awards at the King’s Crown Leadership Awards from Columbia University.

Adding to our accomplishments is Pulse. The idea came after reading a book I received after participating in the University of Pittsburgh’s Summer Academic and Enrichment Program (SPAEP) in 2009. It was astonishingly resourceful and served as a pre-med bible to me. I later discovered a mini pre-med booklet written by students of the Harvard Pre-Med Society. As an overachieving Columbian, I decided I would combine the best aspects of Pitt’s and Harvard’s guidebooks — depth and student perspective respectively?— to develop a new resource written by Columbia pre-meds, for Columbia pre-meds. The intention was to offer honest advice and real-life scenarios about how to manage and successfully complete the pre-med curriculum at Columbia.

For various reasons, Pulse did not come to fruition until my very last semester. To help me accomplish the tremendous task, I reached out to two Charles Drew executive board members, Antoinette Allen, a rising senior, and Jasmine Alves, a rising junior. Before approaching them, I had drafted a detailed outline and timeline for the project. Antoinette and Jasmine enthusiastically accepted my proposal and committed to making sure the project did not fall through the cracks. Our main goal was to contact 45 student writers, some who had already graduated and were successfully matriculating in medical school. I split up the tasks among the three of us to contact them. It was not easy to get people to write and it took a lot of diligence and follow-up on our part to make sure that everyone completed their articles.  We also still had to stay on top of our academic and work schedules.  After receiving first draft write-ups, I created a template for what would be an e-book. This meant endless hours of sifting through numerous word documents. I then distributed all the articles to my editing team, Antoinette and Jasmine, and two other executive board members, Kwanza Price, a recent graduate of the Post-Baccalaureate Program, and Christina Ortiz, a rising senior. Each article was edited twice followed by final formatting and graphics. The editing team also created titles for the major sections and the book cover.  For final product delivery, I owe much to recent graduate Melvin Green for his expertise in visual arts.

After three months of intense work and dedication, we had a 200-page guidebook written by both current and former Columbia pre-med students.  We are excited to leave a legacy for future generations of pre-meds to follow and hope the book will be continually edited. Looking ten to twenty years ahead, I hope Charles Drew continues to expand its reach and activities in empowering pre-med students, especially minorities. I personally hope to help establish the Charles Drew alumnae network and plan to be engaged in developing more innovative resources like Pulse.

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Charles Drew Pre-Medical Society. Pulse: The Unofficial Lifeline Guide for Columbia Pre-Meds. New York, 2011.

Filed Under: Inside SNMA

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