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Students at the Urban Health Providers Panel discussion

Students Reflect on Urban Health Providers’ Stories

The Latino Medical Student Association recently collaborated with the Urban Health Interest Group, Student National Medical Association and Black Student Association to bring three outstanding health care providers to talk to Northeast Ohio Medical University students. The 45 students who attended the Urban Health Providers Panel discussion on Nov. 6 came from the College of Pharmacy, the College of Medicine and the Kent Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) chapter.

Three students contributed the following reflection: Second-year College of Medicine students Aviva Aguilar and Anibelky Almanzar, and first-year College of Medicine student Theresa D’Ettorre.

Our speakers are very humble individuals who faced many challenges on their path to medicine and pharmacy.

Dr. Carl Allamby is a 2019 NEOMED graduate of the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health pathway who is currently on his intern year in emergency medicine at Cleveland Clinic Akron General. He has been featured on various newspapers and TV shows because of his career change – from being a car mechanic and owning his own business to becoming a physician at age 47.

Dr. Allamby talked to the students about the challenges he faces as a health care provider in an urban setting.

“One of the challenges I face in the emergency department is that I deal with a lot of people who come in for non-emergency things. People using the ER as their primary care office because they literally do not have a choice…I understand why they do it because I was one of those people who had to take my son to the ER at three in the morning because I had to work the next day and could not afford to take time off work,” he said.

Dr. Allamby described his commute from Cleveland and his wife and kids waiting for him at home. This forced him to fully focus when he was studying so he could be fully present with his family upon arriving home. He described how hard it was for him, at first, to get past his own insecurities about being older in his class and being the only African-American male.

He got past these things by focusing on his personal mission and not comparing himself to anyone else, he said. Some of his studying tips included: “re-writing things, listening to alpha waves to study, and lots of repetition.”

Overcoming oneself

Javier Calderon, M.D., an infectious disease physician born and raised in Peru who practices in Youngstown, talked about a challenge that can be applied in any setting: “Overcoming oneself.” Dr. Calderon expressed that he had a lot of insecurities and the way he overcame that to start learning was by being able to accept what he did not know. He commented that no one knows everything and that it is acceptable to find out the information later for patients.

Dr. Calderon also described the extreme difficulties he faced in Peru with a failing economy, wife, and kids where he made no more than $300 a month as a physician. He used this as a motivation to study hard and to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) as well as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and serve as a doctor in the U.S.

Some of Dr. Calderon’s studying tips included pausing and reflecting on what you have just read. “Ask yourself, what do I understand of this subject?”

A pharmacist’s perspective

Moses Oyewumi, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at NEOMED, talked about the challenges he faced growing up in Nigeria and in the pharmacy industry before coming to a research and faculty position at NEOMED.

Dr. Oyewumi encouraged students to share their knowledge with patients, focusing on patient health literacy to understand the patient’s perspective. He recommended that students always ask for help when needed. Set yourself up for success by preparing ahead of time and giving yourself the time you need, he suggested.

A final recommendation from Dr. Oyewumi: “Talk to your professors if there’s something you do not understand. Build the connections. Professors are there to help you succeed.”

The guidance of loved ones

Each of the guests highlighted the important role that loved ones play along the way. From allowing you to reflect on a difficult day in the clinic, to applying the teach-back method as a learning tool, loved ones offer a culture of support and encouragement. This support system is vital in getting through the toughest challenges of the profession.

All in all, our speakers left us with golden nuggets of wisdom. We are so lucky to have had them with us for this panel, and we hope these anecdotes can help members of our community as much as they helped all of us in the audience.