Shea Hazarian (pronouns: she, her, hers)
I work in an office tasked with supporting students from high school through undergraduate college, medical school, and residency who have been historically underrepresented in medicine. These students (primarily Black, Latino and Southeast Asian) have overcome innumerable barriers by the time they reach medical school. Some of them, especially those in our SJV PRIME and REACH PRIME cohorts, call the Central Valley home.
At three different times throughout the trip, we heard stories of amazing and successful women of color who were discouraged by their high school teachers and counselors from pursuing the health sciences in high school. Some struggled early in high school and were tracked out of college prep courses, while others were blatantly racially profiled and told that “their people” did not succeed in such courses. These women all proved their disbelievers wrong, but they did not come out unscathed. There is a degree of trauma that comes with this discouragement – something that studies of grit and resilience do not always take into account.
What this means for UC Davis Health
As we aim to increase the diversity within our students and faculty, it is essential to keep this in mind. Our future providers, who are most likely to return to their communities to serve the populations who need care the most, are being told from a young age that this field is not for them.
Those who continue to strive for that degree may be the only person of their race in their class, and may be subject to prejudice from peers, faculty, and even patients. We talk frequently with our students about imposter syndrome: the little voice in their heads that can tell them that no matter how much they achieve, they will never be good enough.
How much louder must this voice be if it is echoed by those who hold the key to your future?
The discouragement may have been well-intentioned – the road to an MD or RN is a hard one, academically and emotionally. It is also costly, especially for someone who starts out with less money for test prep courses and application fees.
But when we offer such advice, we must also ask ourselves:
Is this person struggling because of their personality, or because of a system that has disadvantaged them from the beginning?
Further, what could this person bring to healthcare or science that perhaps we cannot: a doctor who doesn’t need to call a translator, a nurse who understands their patients’ lack of access to healthy food, an epidemiologist who can connect with those struggling with addiction?
How much could we change the culture of medicine if we tell our students that we expect much of them, but that we’re here to support them through every step?
As I’m sure these students will tell you, the little extra work is always worth it.
More on the Interprofessional Central Valley Road Trip:
The Interprofessional Central Valley Road Trip, organized and facilitated by Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia, provides a unique experience to educate present and future health care providers and their professors about the populations served by UC Davis Health.
As many don’t know much about this area of California, this trip highlights the beauty, histories, strengths and challenges of California’s Central Valley.
About the trip:
Who can participate?
This unique experience is open to UC Davis Health students, staff, administrators, and faculty.
55-seat bus with bathroom, Wi-Fi, power plugs and overhead monitors for DVDs.
Creator, facilitator, teacher:
Jann Murray-García, MD, MPH
Assistant Clinical Professor
Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, UC Davis
Historian and guide:
David Hosley, PhD
Historian and documentary filmmaker of California’s Central Valley, former UC Merced Vice Chancellor, former executive director of The Great Valley Center (Stockton) and former president and general manager, KVIE Public Television