In 2022, there were more than 55,000 applicants to allopathic medical schools in the United States. Just 22,712 applicants were lucky enough to gain a spot, putting the acceptance rate at 41.2%. One of the most competitive medical schools is one of the newest programs: Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KPSOM). It enrolled its first class of medical school students in 2020 and has continued to grow in popularity. During the 2021-22 application cycle, KPSOM received more than 11,500 applications and accepted 50 students. That means just 0.4% of applicants were accepted.
1. Where did you attend undergrad? What was your major and what activities were you involved in as an undergrad?
I attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where I majored in Healthcare Management and Policy. Aside from academics, I worked as a resident assistant, served on the executive board of Alpha Phi Omega (my co-ed service fraternity), played intramural basketball, and did research in a NASA funded plasma physics lab.
2. Which extracurricular activity do you think was most influential to your medical school journey?
Alpha Phi Omega is a national co-ed service fraternity. Choosing to join APO my freshman year was easily the best decision I made in undergrad because not only did I get the opportunity to engage in meaningful service projects around D.C., but I was able to develop my leadership abilities through various executive board positions. For example, I coordinated a service project with St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital which seemed simple but was extraordinarily impactful. Each week, I led a group of students to the admissions ward where we played games, hosted trivia, and shared stories with the residents-in-care. It was those stories that I believe helped me stand out in my application and interviews because it highlighted the person I am beyond my medical aspirations. My mother was my prime motivation for wanting to go to medical school because of her passion and decision [to work] at a
state psychiatric hospital for over 35 years. I remember asking her how she always seemed so eager and energized after work and her answer always stuck with me: “I love working with patient populations that are so easily forgotten by the rest of society.” Coordinating that project with St. Elizabeth’s developed that same love in me and constantly reminded me of why I wanted to be a doctor.
3. What type of experiences do you encourage pre-med students to have?
My biggest piece of advice: Do not view the medical school application process as a checklist of items to mark off. Do what interests you and show on your application that you are a person above all else. It was the genuine stories from my experiences [that] I was able to tell—both medical and non- medical—that I believe helped me stand out in the applicant pool.
4. Do you think your major choice adequately prepared you for medical school? Would you
recommend students choose an untraditional major?
I entered Georgetown University as a Biological Physics major, but after my first year, I transferred into Healthcare Management and Policy. I decided to make this change because as a Black man in the United States, I wanted to better understand the social determinants that affect the way different populations interact with our healthcare system. For me, this aligned beautifully with the mission of Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, whose emphasis on primary care and upstream factors of health made me excited to grow my understanding of population health. Again, there is no right or wrong major — I think it’s most important to choose one that genuinely piques your interest. I loved physics, but nothing excited me more than better understanding the complex healthcare system I hoped to one day guide patients through. However, I was still able to stay engaged with physics through research!
5. How did you approach the med school application process? How many schools did you apply to and what were you looking for in a medical school?
I took a relatively conservative approach to applications and applied to “only” 13 medical schools of which I was fortunate enough to be accepted to all 13. I am proud to now be en route to being the first Black physician in my family’s long history.
The biggest piece of advice for the application itself is to look at each individual component and activity entry as a mini personal statement, deserving as much time and attention as the true personal statement. This helped me highlight what was important to me in a way that was not simply listing items, but telling stories about myself and my journey into medicine.
The biggest factors for me in choosing a medical school were 1) location/climate, 2) school size, 3) affordability, and 4) a primary care focus. I wanted to live on the West Coast to experience something completely new since I had lived on the East Coast all of my life. I also wanted to get to know all of my classmates rather than being drowned out in a large class size. Lastly, I wanted an education centered around the upstream health of individuals and how I could eventually be a leader in that field either on the administration-level or public policy-level. Another factor that was crucial to me was opportunities for early clinical engagement because I always wanted the patients to stay at the center of my education.
6. Tell us about your experiences at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine.
So far, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine has been everything I could hope for and more. With a small class size of only 50 students per year, I know every single one of my peers very well which has facilitated an extremely collaborative community. The state-of-the-art anatomy resource lab and captivating views from the fourth-floor student lounge create an environment where learning and
growth are fun and engaging. The standardized patient encounters and longitudinal integrated clerkship give us the chance to apply what we learned in class to the real world from our first weeks of medical training. Additionally, learning about population health from experts in various parts of the field has been inspiring, to say the least, helping me forge my own path. I’m even now taking on my own scholarly project, exploring the impacts that financial navigators have on the quality and outcomes for patients newly diagnosed with cancer. I am only one semester into medical school, but I truly believe I am being set up for immense success as a physician and colleague.
7. What advice do you have for high school and college students aspiring to be a doctor?
The path into medicine is long and difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be the time of your life. Soak it all in every step of the way. The further along the journey I get, the more I realize and [am] amazed by how much I’ve grown. You will grow too, but it might not be at the same pace as everyone else. Always take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come, and you will never forget your “why” in deciding to go down this path.
8. How does the Single GME (Graduate Medical Education) Accreditation System affect you and your peers? What is your opinion on this?
With Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine being such a new school, there are definitely challenges and advantages. There are new clubs popping up daily and new leadership opportunities to take on. One of the biggest things that highlight this journey is the multiple opportunities for feedback that are given to us students. It is amazing and so important that we get to actually see that our class’s perspective becomes paramount in paving the path for the school. Every month since I’ve been here, we’ve seen countless changes to the curriculum, class schedule, bonding events, research opportunities, etc. All have been based on our feedback on what the school can do to improve its future incoming classes. In addition to being able to celebrate the accreditation milestones we reach, this process has created a space where I know I can thrive because I am quite literally helping pave the road on the journey.
9. On your journey to medicine, if you could do anything over, what would it be?
If there’s one thing I would do differently, it would be to trust myself and my story more. From my humble NJ upbringing to my clinical experiences to my extracurriculars, it becomes so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. The so-called “Imposter Syndrome” is very real and can guide you down the wrong path. For example, I started doing activities in high school that I did not enjoy whatsoever for the simple fact that they might look good on my application. What I overlooked was that those experiences do not elicit the same growth as experiences I was excited to engage in. My growth was immense between high school and now, but I never allowed myself the opportunity to look back at how far I’d come. Trust your story, do what excites you, and acknowledge your growth along the way—big or small.