First, tell us about your hometown!
Emani Silva: I am from the best state with the best seafood – Maryland. My hometown is a small town called Odenton, which is between Annapolis and Baltimore.
Candice Vieira: I was born and raised in California, specifically Livermore, CA—a suburb in the San Francisco East Bay Area.
Nicolas Mayfield: I moved around a lot, but I grew up in Tampa, Florida and moved to Tallahassee for college.
Morgan Greene: I am from Baltimore MD. Technically, you could call Baltimore a large city, but it feels pretty small because a lot of people know each other (or know of each other). I have massive love for my city because it is a pinnacle urban city. Multiple universities were within 10 miles of my house (3 were within 5 miles), malls were a 5-minute bus ride away, and you were never short of café options within your neighborhood. YES! Even the “low-income” neighborhoods had cafes within walking distance (I know because I lived in a low-income area). For all of Baltimore’s negatives, there are MANY more positives.
Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
Emani: Washington College (in Chestertown, Maryland). Fun fact, our mascot was a goose.
Candice: UC Davis in 2017 with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Nic: Florida State University.
Morgan: University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL).
Are you a traditional or non-traditional student? If you are a non-traditional student, would you tell us more what did you do before medical school?
Emani: Non-traditional(ish). I graduated with my undergraduate degree a year early, so I was able to take an unexpected gap year to work and gain some experience. Technically, I am in medical school the same time I originally planned. For my gap year, I spent the first portion working as a Chief Scribe for ScribeAmerica. In this role, I oversaw 50+ scribes at two locations in Maryland - Johns Hopkins ED and Howard County General Hospital ED. I saw a lot of cool things and would HIGHLY recommend it to someone who has never worked in the healthcare field before. It also gave me a leg up when it comes to writing notes, interviewing, and knowing medical terminology that gets thrown around in medical school. After a while, I kind of wanted a change of pace, so I became a Teacher’s Assistant at a local elementary school. I worked with Pre-K through third grade special needs students, including students who had Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, and ADHD. I loved working here because I love children and it was a total change of pace compared to the ED. It was very hands-on, and I had the opportunity to see medicine in a different light. It was also a cool way to get more experience without being in the hospital.
Candice: I worked in the Biotechnology industry at ThermoFisher Scientific in the Synthetic Biology department, helping synthesize genetic constructs for research purposes. Besides work, I coached a youth girl’s basketball team and explored South East Asia for several weeks. Both experiences were definitely the highlights during my time off.
Nic: I earned my first degree in Sociology before realizing my interest in science and medicine. I decided to complete the necessary prerequisite courses, and ultimately decided to complete a degree in biochemistry before applying to medical school. While completing my biochemistry degree, I worked as an organic chemistry TA for at FSU, and led the biomedical safety training and employee training for a clinic.
Morgan: I guess I’m sort of a non-traditional student. I completed my undergraduate degree in 5 years (instead of 4) because I received a scholarship to study a subject outside of science to enrich my knowledge. I chose to study Sociology and traveled to Kenya for 2.5 months the summer of 2017 to volunteer in local hospitals.
Why did you choose to attend UABSOM?
Emani: Aside from the amazing education we get here, I chose UAB because of the PEOPLE!!! After going on interviews, UAB was the only place where I knew I would be cared for and would be welcomed with open arms!
Candice: There was not a singular reason why I chose UABSOM but rather several factors that resonated with me most. I am passionate about medicine for the underserved, therefore, having a student-run clinic was a must. That said, Equal Access Birmingham (EAB) was one of my top reasons for attending. Also, I am a part of the Primary Care Track and I really appreciated the opportunity to acquire unique community focused internships/shadowing experiences during my clinical years. Lastly, my boyfriend is in the Air Force and we knew he was being relocated to Florida for further training. UABSOM happened to be the closest option to be near each other.
Nic: UAB has a highly ranked medical school that is well-known in the southeast and throughout the country. Aside from the reputation, the attitude of the students I met during interviews, and the approachability of the staff and faculty definitely played a large part in my decision to come here. Choosing UABSOM meant choosing a great education, but also meant choosing a great support system.
Morgan: As soon as my interview was over, I knew UAB was where I needed to be. This environment is fueled by collaboration! While there will always be principal investigators who are cut-throat about getting top papers published, at UAB, many more investigators care about advancing science in order to help the rest of society. And if you think about it, conducting research while practicing medicine with that goal in mind, top papers will follow.
Emani and Candice, would you talk more about your process joining the military?
Emani: I’m a part of the Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program (Go Navy!!), which is a program that allows you to get a fully funded education and provides you with annual military training with the promise to pay it back through military service once you graduate. I first learned about the program from a college teammate who went through the process the year before me. To get the scholarship, I had to meet with a Navy recruiter and go through an application which entailed writing essays, multiple interviews, background checks, and passing a health screening. I began the process in July 2017 and completed my application in November 2017. When I was accepted to medical school, I was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy. My tuition is covered completely, and I receive a stipend while in school to pay for other expenses like books and rent. My first requirement is to attend Officer Development School (ODS) this summer in Rhode Island for 5 weeks! I am so grateful for the program and the opportunities it has provided me. I highly suggest anyone who is interested to at least inquire about it. If you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!!
Candice: I am an Air Force HPSP scholar. I don’t come from a military family, but my long-term boyfriend is a pilot in the USAF which strongly influenced my decision to join. However, there were many reasons why I decided this path. The cost of medical school is steep, especially as an out-of-state student. HPSP resolved my financial issues surrounding medical school debt/loans and aligned with my personal life. It was a natural fit for me.
Nic, would you share how your family/married life help make your decision to choose a medical school?
I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive wife who wanted me to accept the best opportunity for medical school. She was willing to relocate her career to wherever that took us. It was important to us to find a school that would offer the best opportunities in line with my goals, and UAB was definitely the right choice.
Morgan, you’re in the MD/PhD program, also called the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Would you elaborate on your decision to become a medical scientist and how UAB provides ample of research opportunities?
Morgan: I decided I wanted to pursue the dual MD/PhD while in high school. I was enrolled in a research focused curriculum and participated in research at Johns Hopkins for about 2 years. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing immunologist (Dr. Drew Pardoll) as a mentor who really strengthened my love of scientific investigation. As a physician-scientist, seeing patients in clinic will allow me to put faces/stories to the illnesses I hope to cure, BUT it also informs me of where the greatest need is.
UAB is a great environment to strengthen scientific knowledge and skills because we are well known for innovating the field of medicine! UAB even recently hit a new goal of obtaining over $500 million in research grants! Here, many researchers are excited about shaping the next generation of excellent investigators.
What has your experience at UABSOM and Birmingham been like?
Emani: Sometimes, it’s hard to be so far from home, but the people I have met make everything so much easier. Birmingham is a fun place to live and I have loved my experience at UAB thus far.
Candice: Coming from California, Birmingham surprisingly feels quite familiar to me, as it reminds me a lot of Sacramento, CA. However, having grown up in the Bay Area, there are big differences. Regardless, I’ve found Birmingham and nearby suburbs to be very charming. There’s lots to explore for different interests and personalities—Red Mountain for the adventurer, breweries for the casual Saturday crew, hip-trendy bars for the socialite and restaurants for the regular foody. Now for school, UABSOM truly is great. The students are helpful, kind and genuine. You’ll meet new people who will share unique perspectives and challenge your current views—a great combo for growth and awareness.
Nic: Transitioning to a new state can be tough, but Birmingham and UAB have made my wife and I feel so welcome. Birmingham is a fun city, with a lot to do, like food festivals and the Pepper Place farmers market. UAB also has an incredible academic medical center- each time I reach out to a physician or department about shadowing, research, or getting involved, the responses are always positive. The school has been great, and I’m very happy with my choice to come here.
Morgan: My experience has been great! I love the close-knit environment of the medical school and how supportive our class is.
What advice do you have for recently admitted students?
Emani: First, CONGRATULATIONS! Soak up this moment. You have worked so hard to get here and so take time to acknowledge how AWESOME you are. We are so excited to welcome you to the family!
Candice: My advice is to reflect on who you are before you start this journey. Figure out what defines you outside of being a student and once you start school, be intentional with your time to still find the opportunity to engage in that activity. Don’t let being a medical student consume your identity.
Nic: Put in a little effort now to figure out how you really study best. Everyone studies differently but having a plan for studying in medical school will make you feel a lot less overwhelmed when you start. Also, I recommend living close to the school if possible. Being nearby has saved time and has made shadowing and research more attainable with my schedule.
Morgan: Figure out why you are becoming a physician and write it everywhere! There will be days where you feel like you put everything into your studying but didn’t get the result you wanted. Those are the days when you have to remember why you are here and that you were chosen to be here.
Interviewed and edited by Isabella Mak, MS1.