We love to see people overcome obstacles, but what if we just moved them out of the way?
Every Match Day or commencement season, I see tweets and posts on social media from students thanking mentors and teachers who have helped them get that far. With alarming regularity, there are also callouts directed at people who were less than helpful: the pre-med adviser who denied a committee recommendation letter; a teacher who told them they shouldn’t even apply to college. For some, like Jared Boyce ScM’21, who is featured in Phoebe Hall’s article on the Gateways master of medical sciences program, there were multiple encounters like that.
In fact, many students in the Gateways program have similar stories. They overcame adversity, found people who believed in them at Brown, and are on their way to becoming resilient, compassionate physicians. We love stories like that, don’t we? But every time I read one, I think of the students who couldn’t prevail, who never got a second chance. For every Jared or Torie Livingston, how many students are there who don’t apply to college, never mind try to go to medical school? We decry the lack of diversity in medicine, but how different would medicine look if so many talented yet atypically presenting students were not stopped at the gate?
Perhaps rather than focusing on remediating the students, we remediate the system. Ensure that well-meaning yet tragically shortsighted advisers are not holding the future of impressionable students in their hands. Use more holistic methods of assessment. Invest in resources so students don’t have to choose between their education or financially supporting their family.
For now, upstanders like Dr. A and the staff at Gateways will be there to show students the way. I’m reminded of the poem by Shel Silverstein, one I’ve recited to my own child who has learning differences: “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
—Kris Cambra, Editor
- Medicine@Brown received an Honorable Mention Award for Excellence in the Association of American Medical College’s Group on Institutional Advancement Excellence Awards program. The magazine also received a Best of District 1 award from the Council on Advancement and Support of Education.