I AM THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE – Marc Parris, MD Candidate at The University of California, San Francisco

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Marc Parris, the youngest of three children to his parents, was born in Manhattan, New York. He grew up in Mt. Vernon, which is just north of the Bronx in New York. His parents, both of Bajan (people from the island of Barbados) descent, are physicians in anesthesia and pediatrics. His brother is an NYPD officer, and his sister is a lawyer. After graduating as valedictorian from Mt. Vernon High School, he attended Harvard College and concentrated in Physics. Marc also completed the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program, which trained him as a student-teacher through the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Boston Public School system during his junior and senior years. After finishing the program and earning a degree and teaching license, Marc taught high school chemistry and physics for four years at the Community Charter School of Cambridge and worked part-time as an educational consultant (writing curriculum and training manuals, conducting trainings) for a non-profit SAT/college preparatory company called Let’s Get Ready!, a group he started working with over the summer after his high school graduation. After three years of teaching full time, additional coursework at the Harvard Extension School, advice from former classmates, and volunteer time at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professional Ambulance in Cambridge, Marc decided to apply to medical school for more rigorous scientific studies. In 2010, he began medical school at UCSF and is currently a fourth year student. Between his third and fourth year, Marc earned a Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from UC Berkeley studying the interactions between race/ethnicity, private or commercial insurance coverage, and disposition outcomes in the pediatric intensive care unit. Marc plans on applying for pediatric and pediatric-anesthesiology residency programs in the coming months. In his free time, Marc enjoy salsa dancing (was formerly a touring professional dancer with Masacote Entertainment in Cambridge/Boston for five years), exercising, the New York Yankees, the occasional camping/hiking trip, and exploring the Bay Area.

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Interview Questions asked by SNMA National Vice-Chairperson of the Publications Committee , Jonathan R. Batson.

Good day Marc, 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?

There were many influences that have led to the path that I have taken. First and foremost, I was lucky to have parents who were physicians that could show me what it was like to be in medicine. Constant scientific inquiry, dedication to patients, and the workings of a complicated healthcare system were commonplace in the home, appealing to my naturally inquisitive and curious mind. However, my parents did not force me into a particular path, and I was pretty undifferentiated going into high school and college. I enjoyed my science and math classes in high school and decided to pursue a scientific field in college—in my case, physics. I started working for the New England Red Cross Blood Services on campus and volunteered with an ambulance company as an undergrad. I was also completing my teaching program and graduated knowing that I would eventually end up in graduate school—I just didn’t know what kind yet. I wanted to get a taste of the real world and landed a teaching job. While teaching was both intellectually rewarding and challenging, I sought a more rigorous venue for scientific inquiry that would allow me to continue teaching in some form and started to contemplate applying to medical school. I spoke to my family and some classmates that went to medical school, and decided that the experience, the difficulties, and the rewards of medicine was something that was right for me. Unfortunately, as a teacher, a senior passed away while playing basketball from a preventable condition two weeks before our school’s first graduation. Learning what happened to him and seeing how the physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital approached the family, students, and faculty of my school on a late Thursday evening set me on my path to become a pediatrician.

2.     What challenges did you face as an undergraduate & medical student? Was there ever a time when you felt discouraged or someone discouraged you from being a doctor? How did you handle that?

I didn’t know that I wanted to be a physician as an undergraduate, and I was lucky enough to not experience any discouragement during my time in school. When I mentioned the possibility of being a non-traditional medical student with my astrophysics advisor before I graduated, I received a lot of helpful information and an invitation for resources and help when I did decide to apply. It was, however, quite challenging to complete my post-baccalaureate studies at night school while teaching full-time at the Community Charter School of Cambridge and performing with Masacote Entertainment. Between classroom responsibilities at CCSC, labs, lectures, and problem sets at night school, and rehearsal and performances for Masacote Entertainment, I had very little downtime. To manage all these responsibilities, I relied on my peers and colleagues for support, acknowledged when I needed to step back for some self-care time, and refined my learning and teaching styles to make the best use of my time for these activities.

3.     How did you balance the demands of your medical education with additional obligations and challenges?

Medical school has been quite challenging, more so because it was across the country from most of my family and friends. I was fortunate and didn’t have too many outside obligations when I moved to San Francisco, other than doing well in medical school. However, when medical school did become difficult, I found that the most useful resource have been my peers, especially the group of friends that I found within the UCSF SNMA chapter and my neighbors on campus housing. From sharing stories about class and the hospital, to studying together for the USMLE, to sharing and collaborating with notes, to relaxing with each other around the San Francisco Bay, my peers have supported me, and I them, throughout medical school.

4.     Please describe your participation in special programs such as volunteer work, research,or study-abroad opportunities during medical school.

a. For my MPH in Maternal and Child Health from UC Berkeley, I spent time researching disposition and length of stay outcomes in the pediatric intensive care unit as they related to race/ethnicity and insurance coverage. Because the MPH program was only 11 months, the data used came from a public-use dataset from the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network. I worked with my advisor and a statistician to complete my master’s project called “Race and Insurance Associations in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.”

b. As a co-coordinator of the Pediatrics Interest Group, I was responsible for participating in outreach and collaboration with other campus pediatric groups, planning and executing the pediatric sub-specialty elective for medical students, and managing the first interest group website and e-mail communications.

c. The ECAMP (UCSF Executive Committee for Assessment and the MD Portfolio) was charged with making decisions about how competency based assessment will function and be tracked at UCSF with the MD Portfolio. As a medical student representative, I assisted in developing a strategic plan for implementing the MD Portfolio with plans for summative and formative assessment in promotions processes.

d. The summer after my first of year of medical school was devoted to creating resources for other first-year medical students as they navigated UCSF’s online competency tracking system called MD Portfolio as a UCSF Curriculum Ambassador. These resources were presented during a poster presentation called “MD Portfolio Integration: Helping MD Portfolio Take a More Relevant and Authentic Role in the First Year UCSF Medical School Curriculum” and published online. The project earned the “Best in Show” award for the poster showcase in 2011.

e. The Student National Medical Association is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students, addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians. As the Webmaster and Associate Regional Director for the medical schools in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada, I was responsible for coordinating contactbetween the Regional Director and medical school chapters, planning and executing a regional conference for ~100 attendees, maintaining the SNMA website for our region, and collaborating with the UCSF Latino Medical Student Association. As the Regional Director, I am responsible for being an active, voting member on the National Board of Directors and Academic Affairs Committee, enforcing regional and national bylaws while overseeing 30 regional officers at 14 medical schools, maintaining quarterly reports on regional finances and operations, and leading the planning and execution of an annual regional conference for ~100 attendees.

5.     Did you partake in any summer enrichment programs as an undergrad?

As an undergrad, my summers were spent on campus at Harvard. After my first year, I was a camp counselor for the Cambridge Youth Enrichment Program, a day camp run by the Harvard Phillips Brooks Association. Interestingly enough, a couple of the campers became my students when I was a high school teacher, and a counselor from my site is now a classmate at UCSF. The following three summers, I was a Harvard Summer School Proctor, supervising high school students who were staying on campus during the summer, taking extra courses to afford time off to teach full time during my senior year, and teaching summer school math and English language arts for Boston Public Schools.

6.     Why does diversity matter not only in medical education, but in the field as well?

We all have a lot to learn from each other. Diversity in medical education affords us this opportunity by bringing together different people with different experiences for the common cause of improving health. It is important for medical students and physicians to share their experiences with each other and to learn from our patients to understand the different social and cultural factors that can affect health. Diversity in medical education can provide medical students with a safe community that is able and open to identifying and understanding health limiting factors that will inform treatment and practice, as well as create a safe space for the exchange of ideas.

7.     What advice do you have for premedical students who are embarking on a career in medicine?

Be certain that you are making the decision to enter medicine for yourself. It is a long and arduous journey, and you must be certain that the path you chose is the right one for you. Once you are certain, know that there is no magic combination of test scores that will guarantee acceptance into medical school, and that you should aim to be a well-rounded, responsible, and developed learner to become a competitive candidate.

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JSNMA is the flagship publication of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). As the voice of the SNMA, it serves as an educational and outreach tool to upcoming doctors and researchers. Journal topics include medical education, research, health advocacy, career opportunities, cultural competency and community outreach.

Filed Under: FeaturedGeneralI AM THE FUTURE OF MEDICINEInside SNMAPremed Corner


About the Author: JSNMA is the flagship publication of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). As the voice of the SNMA, it serves as an educational and outreach tool to upcoming doctors and researchers. Journal topics include medical education, research, health advocacy, career opportunities, cultural competency and community outreach.

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