Why Representation Matters

Representation Matters

Special thanks to Angela for inviting me to be a part of the Diversity in Medicine Initiative

Hello. I’m Tolu Akinshola, a second-year Osteopathic medical student at TouroCOM NY. 

Here is my journey:

I knew I wanted to be a physician ever since I was a little girl. My father was a professor at a medical school, and I would often visit him in his lab. The glass jars filled with various specimens and medical oddities lining the hallways piqued my interest. My love of science evolved into a love for medicine when I realized that I could not imagine myself tethered to a lab. I took advantage of any and every opportunity to break into the medical field. I qualified for the Medical Careers Program offered at my high school. Medical Careers allowed students to go to the local hospital to shadow various healthcare personnel and perform CNA-type duties. I also worked at a doctor’s office and obtained a biomedical engineering internship. Somewhere along the way, I was influenced by a notion that women should only pursue medicine if they want to be a primary care physician. Therefore, if I wanted to do a “less family friendly” specialty such as surgery, I should become a Physician Assistant. I subsequently altered my career path and attended a small college in Philadelphia, PA. It had an accelerated Physician Assistant program that I enrolled in. However, when it was time to begin the graduate part of the curriculum, the accreditation was revoked, and I gained the courage to pursue medicine again. I did not directly matriculate from undergrad to medical school; I attended a Post-baccalaureate program, then was accepted to medical school.

Why did you switch from physician to PA and back?

The traditional Nigerian culture emphasizes gender roles and at the time, there was little to no representation of a Nigerian-American female physician who was not in primary care. Social media made these women more accessible and enabled me to take the leap into medicine.

What advice do you have for premeds?

Do not allow anyone to discourage you from your goals. Envision your future and pursue it. Follow role models on Instagram, message them and ask them to mentor you. Please be respectful and professional, despite the informal format. Create friendships with people who are a year or two ahead of you and connect with someone who is at the same stage in the process as you.

Why does Representation matter?

Representation is a critical component of the medical journey. The journey is difficult, with various twists and turns, that may result in burnout or quitting all together. You will encounter social and financial barriers along the path. Keep going despite them. Surrounding yourself with people who look like you and are in your prospective field is vital. These people will inspire you and lend you the strength to endure. Do not allow anyone to discourage you from your goals. Finish the mission. When you have conquered one mountain, do not forget to turn around and pull someone up with you. Good luck and please do not hesitate to contact me on Instagram. If you are interested in more content from me, check out my blog.

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