Kwesi Blackman

NU 2009 - BS Biology; Howard University School of Medicine, Class of 2014

What led to your interest in a career in medicine? Who or what inspired you?
As an 8-year-old boy I used to watch a show on the Learning Channel about surgeons performing various types of surgeries.  I remember my mother asking me “why are you watching this kind of stuff?” and responding, “That is what I want to do when I grow up.” I found it so amazing what they were doing. I did not have any doctors in my family and my only experience with a real doctor was when I would go for my yearly physicals. So, a TV show on the Learning Channel every Sunday night was what first inspired me to become a surgeon.

How did you prepare yourself for medical school? The application process?
I prepared for medical school by studying for my undergraduate courses. As a biology major at NU, in my final semesters, I completed several courses (Biochemistry Dr. Dmitry Blinder, Cell Biology Dr. Wendy Smith, and Medical ethic Dr. Kerry Dugan) that greatly benefited me in my first year of medical school.

What undergraduate experiences were most instrumental to your success?
I was very focused when I began going to school. I transferred to Northeastern from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn NY and my main goals were to do well in my classes, to graduate from NU, and to start medical school. Looking back, it would have be nice to take advantage of NU Coop program and spend a semester conducting research or working, but I was determined to complete the work I set forth for myself.

What obstacles or hurdles did you overcome in your medical school journey?
Growing up in Brooklyn NY was not very easy.  There were many distractions that caused me to lose focus of my dream of one day becoming a surgeon.  I was more involved in my extracurricular activities than doing well in my classes.  After high school my grades were so bad that I was not accepted into any colleges.  I decided to enlist in the United States Army at the age of 17 as a 13B Artilleryman. I excelled in the Army, was promoted to Sergeant at the age of 20. My mentors instructed me to continue on in the Army and become a career soldier. I was contemplating re-enlisting in the Army, when a good friend of mine was killed in an IED explosion on the streets of Baghdad.  His death was the deciding factor in my decision to leave the Army.  Not because his death scared me, but his death made me ask myself a very important question “Is this what I wanted to do with my life?” the answer was no, I wanted to be a surgeon.  Using the values, leadership skills, and the discipline I gained in the Army, I was honorably discharged from the Army and began the long journey to one day fulfilling my dream of becoming a surgeon.

Whether you entered medical school directly from NU or had a gap year (or more), looking back, are you happy with the decision you made? Why or why not?
I am very happy with the decision I made. The time between finishing NU and starting medical school was very relaxing. I worked fulltime, but I got to take a break from studying all the time and I really enjoyed my job and my coworkers.

Is medical school what you thought it would be?  Would you share your thoughts?
Medical school is very challenging. I have found that the material is not extremely difficult but the amount of material you are required to absorb is enormous.

What are your career goals right now?  Have they changed since you begin your medical school studies.
Before starting medical school I already knew I wanted to become a surgeon.  Since starting medical school, and working with my preceptor, I have now decided to become a surgical oncologist specializing in breast surgery.

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?
Do the best you can in all your classes.  Shadow a physician, volunteer at a hospital or do something else that is medically related to gain experience in the medical field where you will eventually provide care for patients.

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