I AM THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE – Chelsea Friedman, Bachelors of Arts in Psychology at Florida International University.
Chelsea grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Central Jersey. The daughter of first generation college graduates, she is of Russian descent. Her parents, who moved from New York City to raise their family, worked hard to provide her and her three sisters with a decent quality of life. Although growing up she did not have the latest fashionable clothing or the latest toys, she felt rich because of her family and their close relationship. She enjoyed reading and completing puzzles. She struggled through grade and high school being bullied but she did not let it get the best of her. She put her mind into her studies and persevered.
At the age of 14 she started volunteering at a local hospital for disabled children, and began working at 15 years old. She has worked to save for college and to buy her own car. She was secretary of the student council and highly involved in the multi-cultural club. Chelsea was the first one to graduate from a research program that was implemented in her high school. She attended science symposiums and won awards for her research on heterosexual relationships. She played competitive sports and volunteered for her community. At the end of junior year she joined a volunteer first aid squad and was offered to attend emergency medical technician (EMT) school on a full tuition scholarship. In December 2009, she earned her EMT certificate and started volunteering at the squad house. She gained a huge appreciation for EMTs and realized her strong passion for medicine. High school guidance counselors did not support her desire to apply to private universities and encouraged her to stay local and then possibly transfer. But that did not discourage her, now she was even more determined. It pushed her to apply to several top ranking schools in the country. She was denied acceptance most likely due to her low Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
Chelsea’s family was a big influence in her decision of what university to attend; therefore she decided to stay within driving distance of New Jersey. Accepted to Northeastern University in Boston, for the Spring 2011 semester, she began her college studies at the local community college while working two jobs and volunteering at the local EMT squad house. She attended the community college under the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJSTARS) program, which affords a student full tuition at a state school if they ranked within the top 10% of their high school graduating class. She entered Northeastern University as a Behavioral Neuroscience major. Once Chelsea moved to college she realized the difficulties of being fully independent. At this point her parents were unable to help with tuition, living and food, she was basically on her own. Due to being denied academic loans, she searched for a university that she could afford and that offered scholarships.
Chelsea is currently studying Psychology with an emphasis on Biology electives at Florida International University in Miami, FL. She is researching at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She will be graduating from undergrad in Spring 2015. She is taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) August 2014 and the Graduate Record Exam in the Fall of 2014. She will be applying to a Masters of Health Administration program in December 2014 and medical school during her first year in the masters program. She is interested in starting a program that assists young women and men around the country who have been sexually assaulted. It is her belief that no child should go unheard, especially immediately following the incident.
Interview Questions asked by SNMA National Vice-Chairperson of the Publications Committee , Jonathan R. Batson.
Good day Ms. Friedman, thank you for joining me to answer questions about your career path and journey in medicine for our premedical membership. It is much appreciated.
1. What inspired you to pursue becoming a doctor?
Throughout my childhood, I would always be drawn to the Discovery Channel to watch shows about science and human physiology. The human body fascinated me; I even read books about it. In ninth grade, I began volunteering at the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River, NJ. At the hospital I worked with patients, which allowed me to gain a stronger desire for medicine. I felt at home in the hospital. I have a sincere passion to be in a position where I can help people stay healthy and assist them when they are not. After becoming an EMT senior year of high school and volunteering weekly at my local squad house, I knew for certain that becoming a medical doctor was in my future. I felt limited to the procedures I could perform to save a humans life; I wanted to be more involved. I often could put together a diagnosis of the patient and I would convey this information to the head nurse. I felt like a doctor.
2. 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?
I had a guidance counselor tell me to pursue social work instead of medicine because I was “not smart enough”. As an undergraduate at Northeastern University I was told by pre-med advising that I should focus on going into research, rather than attaining a medical degree. Although I enjoy medical research, I knew my desire was to interact with people and have a direct impact on bettering their everyday life. I knew I had to find a mentor who would support me through my journey. I thank Minority Association of Pre-medical Students (MAPS) for giving me the opportunity to find such incredible mentors who have guided me and encouraged me to keep moving forward. I intend to be a mentor to future premedical students on their journey to becoming a doctor.
3. How did you balance the demands of undergrad with additional obligations and challenges?
I balance the demands of being an undergraduate that has an interest in medicine by being focused and extremely organized. The demanding schedule of being a student in addition to the other obligations I have undertaken, like research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and an executive board member for MAPS, will only help teach me the skills and teamwork needed to be a successful doctor one day.
4. Please describe your participation in special programs such as volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities as a premedical student.
I currently conduct research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. I research a mechanism through which ketamine can be used as a rapid antidepressant in mice. In the past I have volunteered at Miami Children’s Hospital, researched in a microbiology lab at Northeastern University, tutored children at an underprivileged elementary school in Boston and peer mentored college students at Northeastern University. Also, I have been a part of MAPS since I started college where I have held leadership positions. I have brought CPR/AED classes to MAPS students and a community service project at a Miami homeless shelter. I have participated in a health fair, which allowed me to further my learning of the importance of diversity in medicine. I also have attended the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP) in Boston, MA, which has increased my knowledge and motivation for becoming a doctor. In April of 2014 I along with another student will be presenting at the New England Science Symposium (NESS) in Boston, MA on our research conducted at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
5. Did you partake in any summer enrichment programs as an undergrad?
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to partake in summer enrichment programs. Every year since I started college I have taken summer classes, which would conflict with these programs. In high school, I was offered summer enrichment programs at top universities but my parents could never afford to send me.
6. Why does diversity matter not only in medical education, but also in the field of medicine?
Disease and illness knows no social barriers. One must be able to handle all the needs of a diverse patient population. America has, and always will be considered, the “melting pot” of the world. With this increased immigrant population, this changes our landscape of patients that doctors are treating. The doctor, as a professional, needs to be educated in the differences in the cultures and be able to handle all these diversities to provide proper quality medical care. Many people today feel more comfortable being treated by someone who can directly relate to their culture.
7. What advice do you have for premedical students who are embarking on a career in medicine?
As TS Elliot said, “There is no substitute for hard work.” I would tell these students that the journey to becoming a doctor is an arduous one, but one that will be satisfying. There will be many years of hard work and many years of sacrifice. As a doctor, you must be prepared to be a life long student and a teacher. I would tell them to not let anyone discourage them, to stay the course, to hold on to their dream. I would tell them that if this is the career path you love, then go for it because yes, you can do it. As my fiancé says, “It is not I.Q., it is I will”.
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