Kehinde Eniola, MD, MPH
It takes baby steps; do not be in haste to accomplish your goal. And when it seems your goal is unattainable, never give up.
This motto is what I lived by during my journey as an immigrant from Nigeria on my way to becoming a family medicine faculty member.
My baby step to success began back in 1997 while getting ready for college in Nigeria. I was enrolled in a predegree course in basic science with the intention of getting into college to study agricultural economics. However, as fate would have it, I completed my predegree course with excellent grades and I qualified to enroll in medical science.
In my first year, I quickly realized that it takes a devoted mind and a committed heart to be successful in the field of medicine. And on top of the rigors of medical school, I endured years of studying in the dark due to inadequate electricity supply and frequent school closure due to rioting and lecturer strikes. However, despite all the hardship, I was focused on one goal: becoming a medical doctor. In 2006, I graduated from medical school and shortly after I relocated to the United States.
One might wonder “why relocate to the United States after completing medical school?” Right after medical school, I applied to various medical institutions in Nigeria for a medical internship position. After multiple attempts to get into one of these institutions failed, I decided to relocate to the United States to further my medical education. Many questions crossed my mind: What if I do not pass the required licensing exam to further my medical career in the United States? What if I cannot afford to pay for the licensing exams? What if… What if… Some international medical graduates say that it is challenging to get into a residency program; others recommended going for a nursing program instead, to make ends meet while trying to get into a medical residency program. Despite my fear, I summoned courage and began the process of getting into a US residency program.
Edgar Figueroa, MD, MPH
I work as a solo-practice student health director at a target school (a medical school that lacks a department of family medicine). I’m located in a major metropolis and work at a very large academic/research medical center. Admittedly it feels a bit odd, then, to be invited to write a post on The Path We Took to leadership within academic family medicine, but STFM serves as my academic home, and being a part of this great organization has allowed me to find my people.
I won’t lie—I have a pretty good job providing direct care to a special patient population while managing to maintain work-life balance. There are drawbacks—my scope of practice has narrowed and I probably have forgotten a lot more than I realize; I’m not part of a department of family medicine and miss the rich exchanges that come from curbsiding a colleague or sitting in a faculty meeting; I don’t have residents on site to educate and learn from and medical school accreditation rules prohibit me from participating in the education of medical students at my institution. Lastly, the job can get pretty lonely. STFM has been invaluable in filling in the gaps.
I was a member of STFM as a resident but never attended an Annual Spring Conference until the first year of my faculty development fellowship. At that meeting, I led one of my first academic presentations, but more importantly got to connect with the most black and Latinx physicians I’ve ever encountered anywhere outside of a National Hispanic Medical Association or Student National Medical Association meeting.
And these were all family medicine educators—mi gente (my people)! I was hooked and have attended every STFM Annual Spring Conference ever since 2004.
Renee Crichlow, MD
In the last couple of years, I have been a co-teacher in an undergraduate program part of whose mission is to increase underrepresented in medicine (URM) students in our medical school. There are many reasons I have chosen to do this and to fully understand, I thought it would be important to share a little bit of my student career history.
To begin, nothing in here is about bragging. It’s really about sharing a story that may be similar to what others have seen.
My high school was a very high performing public school: we had 13 National Merit Scholars in the year I graduated, and I was one of them. (Except at that time in 1985 my award was called National Merit Outstanding Negro Scholar. I’m not joking. That’s exactly what it was called in 1985.) I mention this because it’s an indication of the fact that I would have been considered a very high-capacity, high-potential performer for college.
For many reasons that I won’t go into, there was no family support for me either financially or socially to enter college. So I found a way to get to college by myself. Eventually, I decided to stay in the town that I grew up in and went to school at Oklahoma University.
In order to afford food and books, I had to work night shifts at Hardee’s, closing the restaurant quite late. I didn’t have a car so if my friend couldn’t pick me up I walked back to campus. I worked multiple nights each week and carried a full credit load. I would say my grades there were mediocre at best. By the end of the first semester, it was clear to me that I was very bored staying in the same town that I grew up in. I went to the large pile of brochures that I’d been sent after winning National Merit Outstanding Negro Scholar award and I chose to apply to Boston University because it had rolling admissions and would accept me based on my ACT and SAT scores alone as my GPA was not very impressive. I ended the year with about a 3.2.