ARCHES 2020 Blog

Week 6 | “Heart Full and Mind Nourished ” by Prishay Johri 

ARCHES has molded my dream of becoming a doctor that serves the underserved into a reality. I started ARCHES knowing I wanted to improve healthcare for marginalized communities within the US, but I never knew how I could attain that goal. ARCHES has allowed me to envision a future where I can also open a clinic like HOYA clinic, which serves patients, and does not care for their ability to pay or their legal status. 

While I feel like I will cherish each and every moment of the past 6 weeks that I have had the honor sharing with my peers, mentors, doctors, and other medical students, there are a few that I have written down, to make sure they stay in my memory, forever. In a session with Dean Moore, she introduced us to the Health Justice tract and the Hoya clinic. She explained that even as medical students, we can have the opportunity to advocate, and fight for equity for our patients through the legal system. This further consolidated the fact that Georgetown School of Medicine is not only making great doctors, they are also nourishing future advocates and leaders that will change the face of medicine as we see it today, a fact that makes me hope I can get my training at GUSOM as well. Furthermore, Dean Moore explained how she runs the HOYA clinic, and gave hope to each one of us that we can initiate similar clinics that treat patients regardless of who they are, within our communities. 

I hope to use the knowledge that I have gained from ARCHES and take it back to my community and my peers at my university. I hope to further have conversations with Dean Moore and talk about how we can offer similar services like Hoya clinic in northern Virginia. I would love to work on a project in collaboration with Northern Virginia Community College, the community college I went to, which had no free clinic or healthcare access. I would like to work with NOVA since it usually has students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. That is a big goal I am taking with me as we end ARCHES this year, but I will utilize the improved confidence, communication skills, and writing skills to apply them within my daily life, in and outside of my school life. 

The 6 weeks of ARCHES have been filled with one highlight after another, but my primary ARCHES highlight was the first time when Christina called me, and my ARCHES fellows, “Future Physicians” when introducing us to a panel of physicians. This might seem like a small deal to the world, but to me, it was the first time I was recognized as someone who will have the privilege to save a person’s life. 

What comes next is my senior year of college at George Mason, where I’m finishing my degree in Neuroscience, and a year where I send my application to apply for Medical School. A dream I have been trying to attain since I was a little girl. Further, these coming months are critical for a sustainable future of America. As the election nears, I will be increasing my advocacy efforts to secure immigrant rights and become the voice of the minority population, many of who lack the resources and opportunity to advocate for themselves. Additionally, I hope to work to increase healthcare access within my community, especially for undocumented immigrants, by advocating through my community college and university to create a free clinic that ensures the uninsured can access healthcare. I plan on finishing 2020 as a stronger, more perseverant, and resilient individual, and I am excited for what the future holds for me.  

Week 6 | “ARCHES as a Stepping Stone” by Abigail Boateng 

ARCHES has been a life-changing experience for me. I never knew the extent to which a virtual internship could transform my perspective on medicine. I always knew that I wanted to use medicine as a way to serve underrepresented communities. ARCHES has taught me that being a doctor is more than prescribing medications to patients. Instead, it’s about serving patients holistically. There are several factors other than the illness that affect patients, particularly social determinants of health, such as housing stability, education, and income. As doctors, we must acknowledge all these determinants and make an effort to address these issues for our patients. 

Additionally, ARCHES has given me a comprehensive understanding of the medical school process by allowing me to learn from excellent mentors and meet with doctors and deans from the School of Medicine. One of my favorite moments in ARCHES thus far was when Dr. Jay and Dr. Peteronic gave us some words of wisdom; They told us that we should make our voices heard. Our opinion is essential. 

Culturally, minorities are taught that when we go places, we must be cognizant of how much space we take up, we must be mindful of taking up to much space, and we must allow others to speak. It’s good to allow others to express their opinion, but some of us internalize this idea to an extreme where it stifles our progress. When I go to places, I tend to give everyone a chance to speak, but no one is looking out for me. ARCHES has empowered me and taught me that no idea is too small, so never be afraid to express what you think.

ARCHES has strengthened my belief that no mountain is too high to climb. No dream is too hard to accomplish. As I begin my third year at Georgetown University in the fall, I will carry these lessons with me. I will not be afraid to share my opinion in class, even if it’s an unpopular opinion. I am going to reach out to people that could be my potential mentors. With all these skills, I hope that in the spring, I can start shadowing doctors and get to experience the daily life of a doctor. I also want to do research, but that all will depend on the state of COVID-19.  

Week 5 | “Glass Half-Full” by Isaiah Osei-Gyening

“By the end of ARCHES you will begin to see yourself grow in ways you wouldn’t imagine.” As the fifth week of the ARCHES program comes to an end, I began to realize the true extent of these words. Taking the time to reflect on how much I have accomplished throughout the duration of the ARCHES program I can not help but smile. The thought of myself being in AHEC sessions with my other fellows and GUSOM medical students, having the opportunity to meet the Deans of GUSOM or bonding with the ODI community, unconsciously I begin to grin from ear to ear. When meeting the Deans I was surprised by how relatable they are. When speaking to Dean Cheng, I resonated with her experience of being hesitant to raise your hand in certain environments and was inspired by how she overcame that challenge. Similar to Dean Dugan, my feelings of anxiety prior to our meeting quickly regressed as we conversed. I was able to speak to both deans as if I knew them for months!

Throughout the ARCHES sessions, the ODI community and guest speakers have all expressed how thankful and glad they are to have a person like Dean Taylor on their team. They have used such as changemaker and showstopper when describing him. Hearing about how people describe him, has made me very excited to have the opportunity to meet a person of this caliber. I am also excited for our research presentation. Having the time to share to the GUSOM community not only my experiences but also the data I’ve collected, makes me anxious yet excited! My peers and myself have taken the time to craft our stories and I am eager to see the results of their progress as well.

When reflecting on my time spent in the ARCHES, there were many moments where I reminded myself that I was not in a dream; our session with Dr. Rosic was one of those moments. In the Dr. Rosic session talked about the importance of the diversification of the medical field. She stressed how essential it is to help minorities get into these predominantly white dominated spaces and understands that ensuring that these spaces are inclusive and safe for that community is the next step to diversifying medicine. Being a passionate advocate of the diversification of the medical field, I was relieved and overjoyed to see that Dr. Rosic had shared the same passion as me. Every seminar, session and meeting I have had in the program further fuels my excitement to be on GUSOM campus to have the in-person experience as an ARCHES fellow. Being able to have more interactions similar to my experience with Dr. Rosic has increased my eagerness to be on campus for the summer of 2021.

The ARCHES community had held us fellows to certain expectations. They did not only view us as students but future physicians. Because of this there was a sudden change in how I carried myself. I was more comfortable and confident whenever I spoke. The lingering anxiety I had before I spoke slowly began to wither away, suddenly I was able to articulate my points in a better manner. My perspective on patient care began to develop as well. I began to ask myself what is the root of the patient’s pain. I began to think outside the box, I wanted to understand what social factors were impacting their health and what needed to be done to ensure that others in their community do not suffer from the same pain. Being in the ARCHES environment where I am held to a high standard while also encouraged to embrace my flaws and strive to become a better person than I was yesterday; has allowed me to metamorphosize into a person who is a changemaker and a stronger advocate. It has further reinforced my goal of becoming a representative and outlet for the unheard and unlistened voices of my community.

Week 5 | “50 percent in” by Octavia Allen-Whitfield

Wow! It is crazy to think that we are already in week five! How time flies when you are training to become a future doctor! The knowledge I have gained in these past few weeks has been so incredible. From working through a case study with Dr. Hill-Daniel to learning about COVID 19 and health disparities with Dr. Kureshi to even looking at the intersection of health and justice; I have never felt so inspired and ecstatic to go into medicine than the way I feel after an ARCHES zoom session.

The most surprising thing to me is the statistics that we are presented with in our sessions about health disparities. Learning that Black Americans are 2.3 times more likely to die from COVID 19 and difference of lifespan between wards seven and three finding that individuals from who reside in ward three, a ward with very little people of color, typically live twenty-seven years longer than residents of color in ward seven. The facts that were presented to us were not new to me but can be so startling to see in such plain print. As a black woman it is so disheartening to think about the untimely loss of Black Americans due to systemic racism and unconscious bias. I find hope in being surrounded by my thoughtful and compassionate fellows. What I am looking forward to is seeing my fellows become incredible doctors who both practice medicine and are social justice warriors. I feel blessed to be a part of such a determined and socially aware group and future physicians. My ARCHES fellows are truly going to go on to do such great things in medicine and beyond.

The biggest difference I have seen is my ability to easily envision myself attaining my goal of becoming a physician. In my everyday classes and studying (particularly in Organic Chemistry) it can be easy to lose sight of my ultimate goal. In my ARCHES sessions getting MCAT studying tips, in our med school mentoring hour, and meeting with real practicing physicians my goal feels tangible and within reach.

I have always felt conflicted deciding if I could make a greater impact fighting for health justice as a physician or as a lawyer creating legislation. Hearing about the Health Justice track at Georgetown and the incredible partnership that happens when a doctor and a lawyer join together in the fight for health equality, I became certain that I could be a practicing physician and an advocate for disadvantaged communities. The ARCHES fellowship has been such an amazing journey thus far. I can’t wait to see what these last few sessions have in store!

Week 4 | “Blooming the Shrinking Violet: Learning, Growing and Being Bold” by Myana Banks 

The academic experiences that ARCHES has exposed me to have been amazing. I commend the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for creating interactive experiences for my ARCHES fellows and I to participate in remotely. On the very first day of ARCHES, we were thrown into a presentation with Dr. Rishori on Research Ethics and the process of research involving the Institutional Review Board. I remember being incredibly nervous in breakout sessions with actual medical students where I barely spoke a word but listening to everything. The things they said made me realize that they are learning just as I am. Whether we were undergraduate students, graduate students, or med students, we ALL were learning about this together and it was refreshing to know that I at least could keep up. From that point further, I was eager to engage and add to the conversation.

The sessions that followed exposed us to different administrators at Georgetown School of Medicine. These interactive sessions are called Dean Connections. Of the Deans I have talked to; I must say I resonated with Dean Cheng. The biggest thing I struggle with as a professional and an individual is confidence. Imposter syndrome is a term I had no idea existed until my participation in ARCHES but it’s refreshing to know there is a term for the feelings I had and also that the most successful people also feel some of these doubts. Dean Cheng constantly told us that we were chosen because they saw our purpose. I hear her voice everyday pressing for me to go on.

The research experiences guided by ARCHES was one I was initially nervous about. Scientific writing is generally not my strong suit, so I was nervous about having to write a research paper. ARCHES has made the researching experience a million times easier! From providing us with a research assistant (shout out to Paige) and having dedicated sessions with actual researchers to discuss their research, I have been provided so many resources to make my Op-Ed stellar. Additionally, these sessions have taught me that research papers are not that difficult to write at all – especially when it’s something you care about. I have learned so much about my community and the problems we face from the research presentations provided by many doctors via the ARCHES program.

Speaking of community, I have loved the joint sessions with the GEP summer pipeline program for high school students. Growing up in D.C., I had no knowledge of programs like GEP. Seeing the youth take advantage of and engage in a program that is aimed to expose them to the medical field was so amazing. Many sessions would be held in conjunction with other departments and they were fully invested in their learning and in discussions, which I absolutely loved.

One of ARCHES’ mantras is “Be Bold”. This mantra has been said constantly throughout the program and is something I will take with me even when my time with them has concluded. I’ve been bold in a variety of different settings with the push of my cohort. From bleaching my hair, taking the initiative to network with the program’s speakers, and “shooting my shot” for letters of recommendation for graduate school, I have taken this saying quite literally!

Week 4 | “Learning Spaces” by Kahiau Cockett-Nagamine

Having completed 4 weeks in the ARCHES program, I can proudly say that my confidence in speaking out in academic spaces has grown immensely. No longer am I afraid of sharing my thoughts and ideas in fear of being ridiculed or ignored. The safe space that the ARCHES fellows and the ODI team have created for us allows us to converse freely about our thoughts and experiences on the matter. We call this a “brave space,” where we are allowed to become vulnerable and share information that would normally be expressed to our closest confidantes. The action of sharing our personal stories and experiences costs us our privacy, but we gain something worth more, allyship, and empathy. 

Recognizing the importance of building connections, ARCHES pairs us with medical students in GUSOM to act as a source of information and mentorship. Through my mentor, I can ask an infinite amount of questions that have been in the back of my mind. My mentor has offered me help with my assignments and projects and has been a great source of encouragement for when I feel hesitant or confused about the path to becoming a physician. Talking with my mentor has positively impacted my self-confidence because I feel reassured that I have the resources, skills, and most importantly, the drive and tenacity to succeed in medical school and beyond. Traversing the arduous process of becoming a physician is much easier when you have a strong support system behind you!

In addition to receiving mentorship, ARCHES has increased our knowledge about healthcare disparities with guest speakers. Dr. Kureshi, a Family Medicine physician, spoke to us about how health disparities in minority communities are exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. We learned about how previous health issues are being negatively enhanced from the effects of COVID-19 and social determinants of health can increase the likelihood of infection and mortality within vulnerable populations. Despite the bad news, Dr. Kureshi shared with us that there are ways to address these issues by bringing justice for the communities who suffer the most, taking a step beyond equality and equity. I found this last bit of information to be the most impactful for me because it showed me there are real, genuine solutions to the problems that society faces and it can be implemented quickly and effectively. I’m excited to share this information with my peers and professors because change can start with one small step and I’m hoping that I can be that step to change! 

ARCHES has provided me with numerous resources and skills that have positively impacted my self-confidence in myself. Whether that is workshops, mentorship, or guest speakers ARCHES has helped me become a more confident version of myself and I plan on fully taking advantage of this experience. Gaining scientific knowledge is one thing but being bold enough to use the knowledge to initiate change is another. I am grateful for ARCHES for teaching me how to become a better version of myself and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store!

Week 4 | “Medicine and You” by Lijing (Austin) Lin

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being in limbo? The sense of feeling lost in the world without someone, without something to look forward to. The feeling that you are simply surviving through another day. When I first immigrated to this country, I was lost. I didn’t know what I should be looking for, or what I would want to do in the future. I was trapped in the environment around me. I felt even more powerless to see my mother’s health deteriorating and relying on Medicaid for survival. I tried avoiding the pain and chose to drown myself in video games.

In facing the challenge of poverty I, like many others, wished to pursue the typical American Dream of living in a comfortable house and having a stable job. I chose medicine out of the many paths of pursuing such a dream, hoping that my parents would be proud and that I could be worthy of their sacrifices. However, something changed when I started volunteering with an organization that connected me with the “Left-behind Children” in China. I enjoyed talking to them and learning about their unique aspirations, while empathizing with their despair. Receiving their letters made me realize that my life had a purpose: helping others by changing their quality of life. I later joined Crisis Textline as a Counselor in college. Talking to the texter with traumatic life experiences allowed me to empathize deeply with the pain they feel. Medicine became salient to me as I experienced the beauty of relieving the pain they suffered while witnessing the social disparities that devastated their health.
With these experiences, I hope to bring a more holistic perspective to the medical community, particularly putting an emphasis on empathy and the connection with patients on a personal level. I want to be the wave of change in unjust policies that oppressed individuals’ well-being through the influence of medical communities.

It is only the third week of ARCHES, but my confidence in becoming a physician has already drastically improved compared to the beginning. I have always battled with the voices in my head that drag me down and tell me that “you are not good enough, and you will never be”. However, with an empowering community of ARCHES Fellows, ODI Staff, Deans, and doctors, I’ve come to believe in myself and my growth. Through the panel with Medical Student Leaders, I felt inspired by people who had similar experiences as me, and who are on their path of becoming doctors. While learning about Community Cultural Wealth, I gained a deeper perspective on the available and unique resources I have as a first-generation immigrant to thrive in the field of medicine. I already can’t wait to experience the diverse experience of clinical, research, and community service in D.C. next summer.

Week 3 | “Medicine and You” by Rajay Dockery 

If there is one thing that we have all learnt and embraced with each other over the past three weeks is that the path to medicine is not a linear one and that we all bring a unique angle to the field. Along with my personal goal of being a source of positive change and fully opening up the gates to medicine and higher education in general for other minorities like myself, the diversity of the field in terms of people’s interests, goals and reason for wanting to join the field is also a major factor as to why the field is important to me. 
From where I stand there is hardly ever a moment of monotony, or lack of an issue that needs to be addressed or simply someone in need. I always hear stories of medical students going on rotations, prior to which many had a decent idea of what direction they wanted their careers to take but end up falling in love with every specialty and how each interacts differently at beside with different populations. This along with the ability to also be a healer and advocate away from the bedside is what fascinates me and at this point has very literally driven me toward the field of medicine and the ARCHES program as well. 

 Through interactions with medical students, practicing physicians and university deans, ARCHES has shown us not only how to tell our story and chart our path into medicine but also the multitude of outlets and social capital we will possess as physicians to advocate for and offer the best possible care to our patients. They held true to their title as the Academy for Research, Clinical and Health Equity Scholarship and so far have outdone themselves in nurturing the doctors of tomorrow through nothing more than the expanse of our computer screen. 

As a fellow, ARCHES has helped me to grow closer to my aspirations as a doctor, find my voice and connected me to my community through relevant and purpose driven research, while learning more about the different health issues and disparities that face our country and the world every single day. This coupled with each individual of my awe-inspiring cohort has made this experience one to treasure. The feeling of being self-aware and growing exponentially alongside like-minded individuals has created a virtual experience like no other and which I would only trade for the in-person experience at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.  

Week 2 | “Home at the Hilltop” by Jennifer Martinez-Sanchez

Before move-in, I had experienced Georgetown through a combination of pamphlets and Google images. Then, during orientation, I made a bucket list: climb onto John Carroll’s lap, order a Chicken Madness from Wisey’s, explore the underground tunnels, and take a selfie with Jack the Bulldog. At the time, I viewed Georgetown as one-dimensional. But, I quickly realized that Georgetown held a deeper place in my heart.

My journey to self-love began with the Community Scholars Program (CSP), a transition program for first-generation, low-income students of color. CSP set the foundation for my undergraduate experience, but most importantly, it granted me the opportunity to explore my undocumented identity. Slowly, I began sharing my story, but I still felt a sense of guilt and shame. I was proud of mi gente and my work, but I did not know why I struggled expressing myself fully.

I could not place it until now, but I was missing community. Better said, I was missing ARCHES.

Ironically, my introduction to ARCHES was not the most traditional. I was printing my PowerPoint slides at the CMEA, but then, I accidentally grabbed a copy of the ARCHES flyer with my stack. Once I returned to my dorm, I realized my “happy mistake.” I could not explain it then, but I saw the flyer as a sign. That same day, I placed the flyer under my pillow (all about that manifestation). A couple weeks later, Director Melendez-Carpio and her team called me, and I will never forget that moment, especially when I ran for my inhaler right after the call, haha!

Without a doubt, ARCHES is more than a pipeline program. ARCHES brings forth a dedicated and vibrant intellectual community of professors, deans, students, and mentors–one that has shown us the beauty and strength behind our experiences. Even on Zoom calls, I have felt the energy and love from the Fellows and the ODI team. This past week, we did a couple of bonding exercises with not only the ODI staff but also the GEP Scholars! Who knew 2 truths and 1 lie was tricky, especially when everyone has such crazy adventures? Oh, and do not forget that Mad Libs are making a comeback and that vision boards are a brilliant way of fostering a space of empowerment and accountability! We also had the opportunity to dive into these thought-provoking questions during panels and workshops: What is access? What is health? What perpetuates health disparities? How can we best advocate for vulnerable communities?

During those sessions, I remember smiling and snapping my fingers every couple of seconds. Why? Well, I had found a feeling of home and belonging. I was surrounded by such talented, passionate individuals, and I held onto their every word, anecdote, and quote/reference (including anime recommendations). Plus, I finally shared my true self, causing such a heavy weight to leave my chest. But, I truly owe it all to my ARCHES Fellows, the ODI team, and GUSOM. They taught me that Georgetown was more than a place…it was a feeling.We may be thousands of miles away, but our minds, hearts, and souls are linked through our dedication to medicine, to service, and to our communities.

Week 1 | “A Feeling of Belonging” by Evelyn Juarez-Parra

You all know about Hogwarts, right? Hogwarts – the fictional school full of wonder and magic, where the impossible becomes possible. I, for one, have always wished such an institution existed in real life. Now, I know it does.

Georgetown University School of Medicine is my Hogwarts and the ARCHES program is my Dumbledore. 

The ARCHES program is unlike any other. When I initially applied for this program, I prayed that I’d have the opportunity to gain all the exposure being offered by ARCHES: research, clinical experience, and community work with DC nonprofit organizations. Little did I know that my life would be turned upside down and inside out (in the best and not-so-best way) in the matter of months. For one, I got accepted! I lost count of how many people I called, crying, to announce the big news. Blessed! Secondly, our world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing our in-person internship to be postponed until summer 2021. That, however, did not get in the way of the ARCHES team planning and organizing an all-online summer internship this summer. Nothing is going to get in our way, as we, ARCHES fellows, shed light on the dire need to address nation-wide health-care disparities and the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on marginalized community members.

From the very beginning, Director Melendez-Carpio and the entire ODI staff (Office of Diversity and Inclusion) made me feel as though I had known them my entire life. Zoom meeting after zoom meeting, the ODI team created a space for all ARCHES fellows to feel comfortable to be ourselves, share our stories, speak our mind, and learn from each and every experience offered. The mystery behind Georgetown University School of Medicine was slowly but surely uncovered after having in-depth conversations with my medical school mentor, Julia, researchers, professors, and medical-school, association student leaders from a panel held during the first week. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. The more I knew, the more I realized that I am right where I need to be.

Being a part of ARCHES is a blessing beyond compare. I find myself having to pinch my arm every now and then, below my laptop’s camera view, to remind myself that this is, in fact, a reality. ARCHES goes above and beyond simply supporting us in our research. It is presenting us multiple opportunities of building relationships with Deans, doctors, medical students, and other members of the Georgetown community who believe in us and our potential.

I have never felt more seen, heard, and supported than I do, now, as a part of the ARCHES team. Being amongst a passionate, group of individuals who make you feel as though you belong – as though they speak your language and understand your passion for medicine, is immensely inspiring. I firmly believe that a crucial part of one’s pre-med journey is surrounding oneself with the right people. ARCHES has blessed me with a whole new family.

The stars are aligning, and I have both God and ARCHES to thank.