Working on my MD and PhD degrees as a DACA recipient

By Cesar E. Montelongo Hernandez

Last week a federal appeals court upheld the ruling that blocks the Trump administration from ending DACA. This means the nationwide injunction that allows DACA to remain will stay in place. Despite this, the legal battle will continue and likely head to The Supreme Court of the United States. DACA recipients have been granted a few months of respite but their long-term outlook is still very uncertain.

I am currently in my fourth year of medical school. In total the combined MD-PhD program takes eight years to complete (an MD degree alone takes four years). Students begin by completing two years of the MD, switching over to the PhD for about four years, then coming back to complete the last two years of the MD. At present I have completed two years of the MD degree and I am in the second year of the PhD degree. Ideally, I will complete the PhD degree by 2021 and the MD degree by 2023.Read More »

A Response to Alumni Disappointed in Stritch’s Support for DACA

By Sunny Nakae

In May the Stritch alumni magazine published a cover feature article about our first cohort of DACA recipients admitted to the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and their impending graduation.  We received both positive and negative correspondence about this feature.  What follows is a compilation of complaints I received from some alumni and a summary of the responses I offered.

“As an alum I am disappointed in your policy to admit DACA recipients over US citizens.  Because you are admitting non-US citizens that means a US citizen will not get a seat. Supporting undocumented students violates Federal Law.  Did these DACA recipients get ‘affirmative action’ status?  Candidates should get admitted because of their credentials, not because they are minorities or immigrants.  What constitutes the right minority?  It seems like Japanese, Korean and Chinese are no longer considered minorities but smaller Asian groups like Hmong are? In my graduating class there are many of us who will no longer be supporting the school.”

Dear Stritch Alum,

Thank you, sincerely, for expressing your current views on our decision to accept MD applications from DACA recipients.  This happened in 2012 with the support of our then dean, Dr. Linda Brubaker, and our then president, Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J  The inclusion of DACA recipients continues to receive full support from our current dean, Dr. Steven Goldstein, and our president, Dr. JoAnn Rooney.  It seems from your email that you might not have all of the facts for the situation, so I would like to open a dialogue and provide those facts for you and any colleagues with whom you wish to share this information.  I understand that at first glance this decision may appear to disenfranchise other applicants, specifically those of Asian descent or US citizens. Read More »

The Past Today: A Southern Physician Visits the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

By Suzanne Minor

At this year’s Southern Group on Educational Affairs conference, the University of Mississippi hosted an outing at the Two Mississippi Museums, consisting of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

I focused my visit on the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.  It was exhausting, difficult, heart-wrenching, and, in the end, hopeful.  Growing up in rural Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, I witnessed legalized segregation through small private schools and experienced rampant racism as the norm. Thankfully, college and medical school broadened my perspective, particularly gross anatomy.  Once without skin, all of those black and white cadavers looked so similar.  Not better than or less than, but equal in skinless death.  I dove into former slave narratives, reading Frederick Douglas and trying to reconcile the message from my upbringing – that I was better than because I was white – with my new learning in gross anatomy and in my direct experience with people who looked different than me.  I was learning that we were all just human, no better and no worse than each other.  My professional career has been dedicated to attending to the medical and holistic needs of the underserved communities of Miami, Florida, a diverse area in which I’m in the minority.

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A Reflection on The Match: Appreciating and Addressing the Financial Burden on Students

By Justin D. Triemstra

Match day.

Those two words can bring back a fountain of emotions for physicians.  For some, excitement and thrill. For others, anxiety or sorrow. But for most, a significant financial burden during a time of limited income. A recent discussion with a fourth year medical student reminded me of this important, yet under-recognized dilemma. One that can affect the geographical diversity of residency classes and increase disparities for students coming from low resource settings.

Since 1952, The Match has placed medical students into residency training programs. In 2017, 43,157 registrants entered The Match with 31,757 filled positions. To obtain a filled position, many students attend a significant number of interviews with the mean number of interviews attended at 12 for matched applications in 2017.1 Each interview adds to the financial burden for students with recent studies in Emergency Medicine reporting an estimated cost per trip to be about $350.2,3 With an average number of interviews attended at 12, we estimate an average medical student will spend $4200 during interview season; a significant burden for a non-salaried trainee and a number that is likely much higher for a significant number of applicants.

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From Marjory Stoneman Douglas to Medical School: A Call to Action

by Zarna Patel

I cannot find the right words to describe how it felt when I read news: “School shooting at High School in Southeastern Florida.”  Despite the 239 school shootings since Sandy Hook, nothing can prepare you for the numbness of having it happen in your hometown.  The way your heart leaps into your throat, the way all sound is muted, the way debilitating fear takes hold from your head to your toes.

“Are you OK?  Tell me you’re OK?!  Please answer me!”  Never in a million years did I think I would have to send a text like that to my 16-year-old cousin, whose biggest worry last weekend was her upcoming SAT test.

Knowing how many innocent children would never return to their parent’s arms that night was paralyzing.  I couldn’t close my eyes for more than a few minutes before flashes of my old high school haunted my dreams.  The large courtyard we ate lunch in, smeared in blood.  The freshman building we loved to hate, filled with kids running away, hand raised. The large auditorium where I spent four years performing, now filled with the cries of distraught children.

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The Physician’s Role in the Rising Cost of Prescription Drugs

By Angira Patel

When I started my medical training, my pediatrics residency program banned all pharmaceutical sponsorship of activities.  No free lunch in the middle of the day, no fancy dinners at expensive restaurants, or trips to conferences paid for by a pharmaceutical company.  Even my lab coat was unadorned by the colorful pens given by various drug representatives.  At the time, I remember thinking a pen or a free lunch would never influence how and what I prescribe to my patients.

As a young trainee, I did not appreciate why my residency program took this stance, but I do now.   Read More »

DACA MD-PhD Student: “I humbly ask to be given the chance”

By Cesar Montelongo

(These remarks were delivered at a rally of the Stritch School of Medicine student to support their DACA recipient colleagues on September 6, 2017.)

My name is Cesar, I am a DACA recipient and a third year student in the Loyola MD-PhD program, training to be a physician and a scientist.

In 2011 I graduated college with three degrees, two minors, and honors. Months prior to my graduation, the Dream Act failed to pass in Congress.  This was a life changing event:  Had the Dream Act passed, I could have applied to medical school.  Instead I was left stranded, unable to exercise my college degrees, much less attend medical school.  For over a year I struggled, my only hope being that some unforeseen chance would appear…Read More »