Interview with: Charee’ Howard, D.O. candidate at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, class of 2014; Nova Southeastern University is an Osteopathic Medical school located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Charee’ is also the current National Osteopathic Schools Co – Chair for the Student National Medical Association (2012-13) and on top of the other accolades, she has a rich history of upholding the values of SNMA through her chapter at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine (Chapter Secretary of SNMA during her first year of medical school and Chapter President of SNMA during her second year).
Charee’ was born and raised on the south side of St. Petersburg, Florida. Her father died of a myocardial infarction when she was 18 months old and subsequently due to that circumstance, her mother was a single parent left to raise two daughters. Charee’ attended private pre-schools and started public school when she entered Kindergarten. The importance of education was heavily emphasized in her house and words like “I can’t” and “I don’t care” were unacceptable. At a tender age her mother and older sister provided her with affirmation and assurance that she could do anything she put her mind to; no matter the trials and tribulations. Charee’ graduated cum laude from Boca Ciega High School – Center for Wellness and Medical Professions in 2002. Throughout high school, she remained active in sports, clubs (French Club, Mu Alpha Theta – Math Honor Society, National Honor Society, and etc.), and various leadership positions (Freshman Class Treasurer, Sophomore Class President, SGA Treasurer, Principal Advisory Committee, Captain/Co-Captain of the Volleyball Team and Basketball Team). She received various awards (Ebony Scholars, Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, etc.). Though Charee’ had been an honor student all of her life and passed her SAT and ACT, she struggled to pass the FCAT (a new standardized test in Florida that was experimented on her class to declare standards of passing and failing). Luckily, she had the option of taking the HSCT (the old standardized test in Florida) after meeting the standard to pass the FCAT. However, she passed the HSCT with flying colors – missing less than five questions on the entire exam.
Charee’ received a full academic scholarship to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida where she matriculated from high school the fall of 2002. True and consistent with her nature, she set a challenging goal to graduate with a Biological Science degree within three years. She was told how hard it was and discouraged to obtain a biology degree in less than 4 years by advisors at FSU. She, however, defied all odds and did graduate from FSU in December 2005 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Though Charee’ remained an honor student throughout college, she had many trials and tribulations to endure. Her mother died of cancer her first semester of college. Family members would impose their negative thoughts and attitudes on her going back to school to complete her first semester. Professors would tell her that she would never make it into medical school, let alone become a doctor. She failed to earn a competitive score on the MCAT three times. The list can go on, however Charee’ chose to look at those adverse experiences as motivation and necessary to continue to build her character.
National Vice-Chairperson of the Publications Committee – Jonathan R. Batson
Charee’, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer questions about your career path and journey in medicine for our premedical and medical students as a part of the Journal of the Student National Medical Association. It is much appreciated.
- What made you decide to be a doctor? – My mother purchased me a Play Skool Doctor Set for Christmas when I was 3 years old; it was that point that I started completing history and physicals on my very first patients (mother, sister, cousins, & godmother), and declared that I was going to be a doctor.
- What challenges did you face as an undergraduate student? Was there ever a time when you felt discouraged or someone discouraged you from being a doctor? How did you handle that? Failing to pass the MCAT during college was one of the greatest challenges I had to face as an undergraduate student, which lead me to get rejected from several medical schools and consequently jobless with a degree. Three times would be the total amount of times I sat for the MCAT, and I never obtained a competitive score for admission into medical school (with the Kaplan course I scored lower than when I studied alone). To quantify my score, when I was applying to medical school I was told that a competitive score was a 24.
- How did you balance the demands of medical school with additional obligations and challenges? – It’s a challenge, but you really do make time for what you need to do. I try to prioritize what needs to be done as far as work, while balancing enjoying life and participating in leisure activities. Some of my colleagues would bury themselves in books and not communicate with family for weeks. I could not go longer than a day or two without hearing from my sister and close friends/relatives.
- Why Osteopathic medicine? – I first heard about Osteopathic Medicine at a MAPS meeting at FSU. There was a representative from the admissions office at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine who came to speak to us about the profession and Dr. A.T. Still’s philosophy. I immediately fell in love with the osteopathic approach to medicine and started researching the field more. I love having the additional skill of using my hands to diagnose and treat somatic dysfunctions, as well as approaching humans a functional unit (physical, mental, and spiritual), and not simply a symptom.
- Please describe your participation in special programs such as volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school. – I received the TOUCH (Translating Osteopathic Understanding through Community Health) award for being in the top of my class with regards to community service. Through Sigma Sigma Phi Honor Fraternity and SNMA, I’ve been able to volunteer in the pediatrics department at the Nova Southeastern University affiliated hospitals, design a substance abuse curriculum (with the help of 3 other colleagues) for homeless at-risk youth in Broward County and present to them once a month on a Friday night, help organize an annual health fair for a predominantly Haitian community in Delray Beach, Florida, teach/mentor disadvantaged high school students who have an interest in pursuing a career in health care through Medical Explorers, travel to Jamaica for a medical mission trip, perform in The Vagina Monologues to help raise funds to battered women, and a host of other activities that I either organized or participated in.
- If there is anything you could do differently as it pertains to your career or pathway in medicine, what would it be? – Absolutely nothing. It’s because of my experiences –good and bad- that I am the person that I am today. I am humbled by my trials and tribulations, and I know that there’s a divine purpose for all that I’ve endured. I can provide a testimony and guidance to those who may come after me that can relate to my experiences.
- What advice do you have for premedical students who are embarking on a career in medicine and possibly osteopathic medicine? – Research all of your options. It’s unfortunate that there’s still a stigma associated with osteopathic medicine; the additional tools (in comparison to allopathic training) that you gain through the use of hands is truly amazing and beneficial to patients. Never accept no as an answer. Getting into the profession may prove to be challenging, but if it’s truly your heart’s desire, let no one discourage you from obtaining you dreams. There will be plenty of empty promises and naysayers, but have faith in yourself and the power of spirit.
Filed Under: Premed Corner
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