The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Experiencing Medical School as a Black Student

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen talks to Dr. Jamel Hill, MD. Dr. Hill is a very recent graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine. In this episode, Erkeda talks to Dr. Hill about Dr. Hill’s bumpy road to medicine, his experience as a minority in medical school, and the importance of representation and resources for minorities in medicine.

  • [00:35] Introducing Dr. Jamel Hill, MD
  • [03:35] Dr. Hill’s Journey to Medicine
  • [11:11] Dr. Hill’s Cultural Experience of Medical School
  • [17:13] The Disparity in Medicine
  • [22:04] How Allies Can Influence the Experience of Black Doctors
  • [26:36] Dr. Hill’s Advice to Pre-meds and Medical Students

Dr. Hill’s Journey to Medicine

After completing his undergraduate degree, Dr. Hill moved to Florida, completing a Master’s Degree in biomedical sciences. While doing his Masters, Dr. Hill applied to medical school but didn’t get in. Once he completed his degree, he moved back to Indiana and worked for a year before reapplying and entering medical school. He took 3-4 months off from medical school for personal reasons and eventually graduated after five years. Dr. Hill advocates for healthcare disparity and has published an article on black physicians in the 19th century. Dr. Hill is also married and expecting his first baby later this year.

Initially, Dr. Hill’s goal was to complete medical school as quickly as he could. He hadn’t really considered that he might enjoy the journey. His first attempt to get into medical school was not successful and caused Dr. Hill much frustration. Looking for direction, Dr. Hill found a mentor that paid for his tutoring to improve his MCAT score.

Dr. Hill’s Cultural Experience of Medical School

Dr. Hill attended the largest medical school in the US, where he felt very isolated as one of very few black students in the program. In his third and fourth years, he was surprised at the racial microaggressions he experienced at the hands of patients.

The Disparity in Medicine

Black men currently make up only 2% of physicians in the states, and that number is significantly lower than 50 years ago. Minorities need to see representation in the medical community to motivate them to become doctors. Financial barriers are also a significant factor keeping many black and brown students from pursuing medicine. Medicine provides a very delayed sense of gratification, which deters students from applying.

In undergrad, Dr. Hill was fortunate enough to attend a pipeline program called SMDEP. During that time, he went to the University of Louisville for six weeks, which exposed him to different kinds of healthcare providers. He believes that experiences in large part helped propel him through his undergraduate studies.

How Allies Can Influence the Experience of Black Doctors

Allies of the black community can contribute to a healthier and more inclusive culture by taking on the emotional, mental, and physical labor of cultivating an antiracist work environment. Black colleagues often carry enrichment activities and education. If you want to have a positive impact, Dr. Hill encourages you to show up and raise your level of consciousness by educating yourself, so other minorities don’t have to do the work for you. He also urges you to push yourself to have difficult conversations that serve the greater good. These conversations might feel awkward and taboo, but Dr. Hill is open to participating when the intention is to learn. If there are few other opportunities to show support, you should ask how you can help. Be willing to put the work in. cultural competence doesn’t come from learning about one culture exclusively.

Dr. Hill’s Advice to Pre-meds and Medical Students

If you’re in medical school or have just finished, trust that you are well-equipped for the task ahead. Trust in yourself to keep going, and be courageous enough to find help when you need it. There will be many times in your career when you feel deflated and unmotivated and need to remind yourself that you are capable. Resources and mentorship can change your trajectory.

You can get in touch with Dr. Hill on Instagram, linktree, and Twitter.

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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