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Medical student assumes challenges of being an African-American female

Ashley DJ[I] can distinctively recall the day I first became intrigued by the medical field. It was the same day my grandmother suffered her second cerebral hemorrhage. The doctors informed us that surviving two cerebral hemorrhages was a near-impossible feat and they gave her a thirty-percent chance to live through the night. Against all odds, she survived and remains a precious part of our lives today. It was in that moment that I decided to commit myself to earning entry into the medical profession. Seneca, the great Roman dramatist, philosopher, and politician offered an explanation for one such miraculous event: “Luck,” he said, “is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This latter sense of “luck” afforded my grandmother a renewal of life. The meticulous preparation and arduous medical training of those physicians made this “luck” possible.

It is with the same sense of luck that I approached the seemingly disparate pursuits of medicine and basketball. Just as I endured grueling training exercises and practices with my college basketball team in order to bring championship victories within reach, I aspired after a regimen of rigorous medical training in order that I might one day administer life-altering treatment. The medical field is, in essence, its own Division I college sport. The pressures to perform with precision, care, and judgment, without exception, are manifest. Yet, these pressures, combined with a healthy dose of competition, help to generate advancements that serve both to prolong survival and improve quality of life for the public at large. Moreover, competition in this sport notwithstanding, any successful team understands that it scores its most indelible triumphs as a collective force.

When reflecting on the vast opportunities that I have been given as a Black woman in the medical field, I’m reminded that my grandmother and mother’s generations fought for the equality of Blacks and women alike. They are collectively responsible for feeding me ambition, encouraging me to dream big, and giving me the resources to reach those dreams. When commenting on the lasting effects of pioneers, John of Salisbury, a 12th century theologian and author, proclaimed, “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature, add to ours.”

As a double minority in medicine (African-American female) I have made it my personal responsibility to change the way people with my background are viewed in the medical field. Also, as I prepare to enter a residency position in orthopedic surgery where all women (regardless of race) are minorities, I would be remiss to remember that my performance will build a foundation of expectation for all women who follow me. It is my intention that my dedication to this performance be reflected everyday in my work ethic and focus.

We are proud to announce Ashley Austin is one of the current DiversityJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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5 comments

  • I’m really impressed by the thoughtfulness of the reflection on her career path and the journey which she has undertaken!

  • Ashley, your essay was nothing short of inspiring and I pray for nothing but the best for you. I love that you credit your strength and perseverance to the two women in your life that gave you life. You know where your strength lies, therefore you know what’s necessary to carry on and be that same strength to those who will follow in your footsteps one day. Because of your grandmother, you’ve taken on a task not easily achieved; because of your tenacity, like everything else you’ve set out to conquer, this too will be a successful journey. Good luck and may God keep you in His grace and mercy during your growth and beyond.

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