Leaders in Medicine Are Blocking Future Black Doctors
My story happened 20 years ago, but it’s still happening today
I knew that I wanted to attend Brown University when I was a sophomore in high school. Our college counseling office had a database of schools that could be searched by keyword. I clicked on “Biology” and “Premedicine.” The list generated was alphabetical. Brown was first. The internet was just taking hold, and so I had to find the web address and type it directly into a browser window on a boxy Macintosh in our computer lab. There was a picture of an elegant brick building centered on a grassy green. The few, text-heavy pages talked about an “open” curriculum. There were no course requirements outside of your “concentration,” so you were free to explore as you wished. All classes could be taken without letter grades. It seemed perfect. I never looked back.
When I started at Brown several years later, I was finally a premedical student. Or, at least I hoped to be one. And so it felt natural to schedule a meeting with the dean who was, at the time, in charge of guiding all undergraduates who wished to attend medical school. So, in my first semester of my first year, I made my way to his office for our appointment.
The dean was nice enough. I don’t want to imply that his tone or his manner was unpleasant. But there also weren’t any pleasantries. He asked about how I was doing in my introductory general chemistry course, and I told him that I had done poorly on the first exam. That I’d received a C. I can’t say that I was used to receiving such grades, but I didn’t really think much of it either. I was in the harder engineering section of the course, not the easier section that was designed for premeds. And I had chosen Brown partly because I imagined that the pass-fail ethos would de-emphasize grades and reemphasize learning. Apparently, I had imagined wrong.
It’s hard to have particular regrets about the life that is mine. And real harm was done. I was sent on a decade-long detour simply because I hadn’t been perfect.
“Well, with grades like that,” he said about my single exam grade, “it’s not likely that you’ll be able to…