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Oklahoma State University

OSU-COM's class of 2024 recount why they want to pursue medicine

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Like most things in 2020, the orientation and White Coat ceremonies for the first-year medical students at OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine looked pretty different than it usually does.

Many of the new medical students are meeting faculty, staff and second year medical students through screens over Zoom instead of in person, and they and everyone around them is wearing a face mask.

But some things have stayed the same— students entering medical school ultimately want to help people.

Caleb Smith grew up drawn to all things science and eventually his interest turned to biology.

“I was fascinated by how complicated life is and how many questions we still must answer about it. I wanted to be part of the discoveries that scientists are making daily,” Smith said, but it was a family connection that got him thinking about becoming a physician.

“What drove me toward medicine, however, was my grandfather. He was a practicing physician who graduated from OSU-COM in 1979 and he was my primary care doctor. He was an artist when it came to treating his patients; he made sure there was a perfect balance between a scientific mind and people-centered heart,” he said.

For Josie Martin, it’s all about the brain. After writing a research paper on the brain in seventh grade, she became immersed in neuroanatomy and knew that’s what she wanted to continue to do.

“A few years later, my mom was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. After the successful removal of her tumor, I was inspired to go into the field,” said Martin, who studied neuroscience and Spanish for her undergraduate degree. “I felt happiest when I was taking classes and volunteering in Costa Rica, Spain and Guatemala. I hope to continue combining my passions for medicine and Spanish on the Global Health Track.”

Language is also a motivation for Diego Dominguez and Alma Rios Wilson.

Dominguez recalls being 12 and visiting the doctor for the first time after moving to the United States.

“I didn’t understand any of the questions the doctor asked me. I couldn’t explain my symptoms in a different language. Eventually I gave up and told the doctor I was fine,” he said, and remembers leaving and being full of emotion because a language barrier had stopped him from getting adequate care. “My vision is that one day patients will be able to converse easily with a physician and no little boy will ever face telling a doctor he is fine rather than try to answer questions he cannot understand.”

It was a similar situation for Wilson, who saw problems arise when her father was involved with a work accident and needed surgery.

“Over the course of his care I started to see trends during doctor visits. It became evident that a language barrier deeply restricted the patient-physicians relationship,” she said. “Ever since then I’ve wanted to do more within the medical field for those whose first language isn’t English.”

Attending health conferences with his mother who worked in public health, Alexander Douglas remembers seeing minority medical leaders demonstrate their love of medicine while impacting their communities.

“They spoke about their efforts in working with underserved communities as well as the differences they made to the people they interacted with. They embodied the idea that compassion and kindness can go a long way,” said Douglas, who is a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo tribe. “As a minority, I felt empowered by their determination to make a difference. I came to understand the importance of meeting people where they are to serve them.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Sara Plummer | Communications Coordinator | 918-561-1282 | sara.plummer@okstate.edu 

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