Hey, everyone! Here is the first #WCW ever! I reached out to Dr. Dejhara Wellons for this segment, and she kindly agreed to letting me interview her. I am so glad I had the opportunity to learn about her path to medicine. I was so encouraged by her story, and I hope she can inspire you as well. You can find her on instagram as @blackgirlsguidetomedicine, where she continues to motivate women of color everywhere! Hope you enjoy the read!
- Tell me a bit about yourself. What is your professional background? Where did you go to school?
I am an osteopathic physician, DO, who attended the Georgia campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM).
- Do you own a pet? If so, how did you care for him/her during school?
I had a boxer, Lady. Best dogs ever, by the way. I made a point to spend 20-30 min in the morning and evening, letting her play and work off some of her extra energy. When I had extra time, we would go to off leash dog parks. I used doggie daycare on days I could afford it. Not often. But she was extremely well behaved and quite independent so she didn’t give me too much trouble. Sadly, she passed away last year. However, I will be getting another pup soon.
- What hobbies do you like to do outside of work/school?
I love cooking, and watching TV, brunch, and wine tasting.
- Favorite food? Movie? TV show? Book?
No favorite food, but I love trying new things! I know every word to The Color Purple and The Little Rascals. I have many favorite TV shows, anything by Shonda Rimes, Queen Sugar, Code Black, Love and Hip-hop.
- Why medicine? Why did you decide to become a physician?
I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember. During tough times, I did contemplate other professions like nursing or PA, however I realized that I wanted to be THE decision maker. I wanted to responsibility and everything that came with being a doctor. I also felt that if I had done anything less than what I set out to accomplish then I would be “settling”. Not that any of those professions are less than, they are amazing and an integral part of the healthcare team. However, it was not what had been placed in my heart.
- What field of medicine did you choose and why?
Emergency medicine. I love being able to treat patients in the acute setting and being able to disconnect from work when I got off. In other words, not being on call. There’s a great work-life balance, and I get to do what I love. WIN, WIN.
- Tell me about a typical day as a medical school student/resident?
Late-nights, early mornings. I still stay up studying, however now it’s because lives are at stake, not just my grade. There’s early morning rounding, lectures, rounding again with the attending, treatment plans, ordering labs, etc.
- If you had to break it up into percentages, how do you spend your day?
This is hard to quantify as it varies daily. However, the majority of the day is spent rounding on patients and coming up with treatment plans.
- What kinds of problems do you deal with? What kinds of decisions do you make?
Again, it varies, from day to day especially as an intern. I see things from hypertension, cardiovascular disease, to abdominal pain, colds, and even psychological issues.
- What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying/exciting? Most challenging?
I love (almost) everything about my job, however I feel most satisfied when I get hugs and “thank you’s” from patients, especially little old ladies and kids, for helping them feel just a bit better. I love being able to make a difference in peoples lives. On the other side of that same coin, that’s also the challenge. What I say, or do, can make or break someone’s future. It’s a humbling experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
- Is there flexibility as far as work hours?
Not really, you work when they tell you to work. Welcome to intern year. However, it depends on the service you’re rounding with. Some require weekends, overnights, some 24-hour shifts…
- How has your job affected your lifestyle?
I don’t have the freedom to be with family and friends as often as I would like. Times of little sleep, and sheer exhaustion. However, still worth it!!
- What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field? How did you learn these skills?
The ability to think on your feet, and know when to ask for help. My best teacher has been my mistakes. I try really hard to never make the same one twice, but I find it has been the way I learn best.
- What experience is necessary to become a physician? What did you accomplish prior to being accepted into medical school and becoming a physician?
I think it’s wise to at least shadow a few physicians, or work in the healthcare field in some capacity to get an “idea” of what it’s like. Prior to medical school, I worked as an EMT which is where my love of emergency medicine grew.
- Can you suggest some ways a student could obtain this necessary experience?
The best way is to ask those around you for assistance. Do they know any physicians that may allow shadowing? You can also simply call around to offices and ask their secretary.
- What extracurriculars did you hold in undergrad?
None, I struggled enough with classes without the help of extracurriculars. 🙂
- What are leadership roles and are they really THAT important?
Having good leadership is important because there are times when you have to make life or death choices for someone. However, it is also good to know when to follow and ask for help. You are a member of a team, so there’s a constant ebb and flow of responsibility.
- How many hours of shadowing do you recommend?
I’m not sure there’s a magic number, however, I feel consistency is key. Schools like to see that you’re dedicated and have actually seen what it’s like to be a physician. It’s really hard to know what you’re getting yourself into if your only experience with doctors is as a patient.
- Any advice on how to dress for shadowing, med school interview, or other professional opportunities?
Business casual for shadowing, unless they say otherwise. And professional attire for interviews. Remember to keep nail length, and colors, and hairstyles low key. A Google search will yield great options.
- The golden question: What is the difference between DO and MD? What is osteopathic medicine? Why did you choose MD/DO over the other?
These days there really isn’t much of a difference, however, the philosophy of osteopathic medicine is based on a more “holistic” approach to patient care. We learn a more hands on approach to medicine and can treat many ailments with osteopathic manipulation of the body instead of prescribing medications. Which is what drew me to it. However, osteopathic manipulation is not practiced widely. There is a merger on the horizon so the differences between DO and MD will likely become non-existent.
- How do you apply to medical school? Residency? How were each of these processes for you personally?
There are electronic services that allow you to input your info once and apply to many places, however, there are costs associated with each application. The process of researching schools/programs can still be overwhelming, but it is doable. Start early, apply broadly. Don’t limit yourself to a specific region or school.
- To how many medical schools should prospective students apply? How early should they apply?
Apply to as many as you can financially afford, as early as possible. Remember there are costs associated with each part of the process.
- How important are grades and GPA when considering a career in medicine?
GPA is a big deal, however, a low GPA it is not always a deal breaker. However, you will have to work harder on the back end. You may need to retake classes, especially sciences, go to a post-bacc or masters program, and DO WELL ON THE MCAT.
- Why did you emphasize the MCAT? What factor does it play in a medical school application? What advice do you have for those who are contemplating taking it?
The MCAT is one of the tools used to weed out candidates. It’s a necessary evil. Take it when you feel ready, do not let anyone pressure you into taking it until then. Getting a good score on the first time is ideal, however you should take it as many times as you need to do well. As it can make or break an interview invite. My only advice for preparation is to do as many practice tests and questions as you can get your hands on.
- What recommendations do you have for non-traditional students? Do you consider yourself to be non-traditional student?
I am non-traditional student based on my low-ish GPA, having to take the MCAT 3 times, and going to get my masters first. So the advice from the previous questions is coming from experience. If I can do it, ANYONE CAN! You have to want it, and work for it, even if it takes you longer than others.
- Throughout this entire process, how did you stay motivated?
Prayer, family, and an internal will to get those letters behind my name!
- Finally, do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
Only embark on this journey if you can’t see yourself doing anything else! You will lose friendships, relationships, your waistline and/or your hairline to get there. You will laugh and cry more than you ever have. You will doubt yourself and find yourself along the way. This journey is not for the faint of heart, but know that you can and will get through it and it is so worth it!!!
I’d like to send a special thank you to Dr. Wellons for sharing her inspiring story! It was a pleasure interviewing you. I love seeing women, like you, making differences in the world.
Thanks for visiting my blog! Be sure to check out my other posts. There is more to come soon! Until then be kind and remember tomorrow depends on what you do today. Hope you enjoyed reading! — Taylor ❤