The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

An MD/PHD’s Journey to Medicine

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen talks to Dr. Dawit Johar who is currently an internal medicine resident at Dalhousie University. Dr. Johar shares how studying for his PhD led him to medicine and his passion for mentoring underrepresented medical students.

  • [00:58] Studying for a PHD and MD
  • [02:55] Why Gastroenterology?
  • [06:29] Mentorship for Underrepresented Students
  • [08:53] What Makes a Great Med School Applicant?
  • [12:46] Navigating Medicine Interviews

Dr. Dawit’s Journey to Medicine: From PhD to MD

As a child, Dr. Johar envisioned that he’d become a scientist or professor. He was a physics major during his undergraduate studies. As he pursued his PhD, he longed to work with people. To address his yearning to contribute to a community, he became a physician. 

Before choosing a specialty, Dr. Johar did his fair share of exploration. He spent a year as a general surgery intern. Although he enjoyed working with his hands, he did not think the field was a good fit. Instead he immersed himself in research the following year and went into internal medicine. Now that he’s almost completed his internal medicine residency, he’s looking forward to becoming a gastroenterology fellow where he can combine his love of procedures and research. 

Why Representation in Medicine Matters

Dr. Johar was a minority in his medical school. He often felt pressured to excel since he was the only student from Ethiopia. If schools were more representative of the patient population, minorities would feel more comfortable and confident. Knowing what it felt like to be alone, Dr. Dawit pays it forward by mentoring students to help them in their medical careers.

Choosing Medicine and Program Interviews

Before you consider medical school, find resources and interview others who have gone through the process of becoming a physician. After doing your research, if you’d still like to continue on the path of medicine, make a commitment to follow through even though it will be tough. Keep an open mind, be eager to learn, and stay persistent amidst challenges. 

Program interviews are opportunities for students to learn more about their future schools. Make the most of your interview time you have by asking questions. Evaluate whether or not your values match the program’ values. Stick to your beliefs and use them as a criteria for whether or not a program will be a good fit for you in the long term. 

Connect with Dr. Johar via LinkedIn. Got questions, feedback, or suggestions? Send a message to Dr. Erkeda DeRouen’s Instagram or MedSchoolCoach’s Instagram

Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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