September 25, 2014
Megan Gilchrist of Long Beach, California is a recipient of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine’s (AUC) $10,000 Career Commitment Scholarship; a merit-based scholarship awarded to those who have previously been employed in the healthcare profession.
Ms. Gilchrist is a graduate of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and a former research associate at City of Hope, a laboratory focused on translational research and investigating the potential of neural stem cells for the targeted treatment of cancers. Here, she shares what motivated her to take the next step toward becoming a physician, the factors that led to her choose AUC, and her plans for the future.
AUC: Ms. Gilchrist, since earning your kinesiology degree you’ve become heavily involved in research. This included a prestigious internship as a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine Bridges to Stem Cell Research Scholar. What led to the decision to change gears and attend medical school?
Ms. Gilchrist: For 18 years, my ambition to become a physician has not wavered, however my understanding of what it requires to become a physician has evolved due to the path my journey has taken. From clinical shadowing to public health outreach and most recently translational research, my experiences have shaped my vision of the physician I want to become.
Over the past three years, my research experience at City of Hope, a laboratory focused on translational research and investigating the potential of neural stem cells for the targeted treatment of cancers, has given me a unique perspective on healthcare, particularly with regard to drug development and regulation. During this time I have gained invaluable experience, but also realized my work was missing an integral component—patient interaction. I observed my mother motivated and rewarded by her relationships with her patients as a women's health nurse practitioner. This experience and realization reinforced my long-held desire to become a physician.
AUC: How did you become interested in and ultimately choose to attend AUC?
Ms. Gilchrist: I first heard about AUC from a friend and fellow University of Southern California alum. He was in his fifth semester of medical school at AUC and he had nothing but amazing things to say about the university. This together with timing and the opportunity to study abroad where key factors for me.
My decision to apply to AUC occurred in June. Since AUC has a September class; and I was eager to begin, the timing was perfect. Additionally, I always regretted not studying abroad during my undergraduate years and with the campus being in St. Maarten, this was a great opportunity to get that experience. Plus, the availability of clinical rotations in the UK to AUC students was also an appealing opportunity to gain exposure to a different healthcare system.
AUC: You have aspirations to become an oncologist. How does it feel to begin your journey to achieving this goal at AUC?
Ms. Gilchrist: At the moment it feels a bit surreal. I am ecstatic to begin my journey, but at the same time somewhat nervous. So far, AUC and St. Maarten have been amazing! The first weekend before classes, I was able to explore some of St. Maarten, and I cannot wait until after block exams to get a chance to explore a bit more. AUC and the classes themselves have been intellectually invigorating! It has at times been challenging getting back into full time studying after such a long hiatus from school, but every professor is enthusiastic to be here every single morning; which definitely helps after the late nights of studying.
It is evident the professors are teaching our classes because they truly want to be teaching, which I find to be in stark contrast to my undergraduate experience. Consistent with my aspirations to become an oncologist, my group in anatomy lab coincidentally received a cadaver that previously underwent a mastectomy. I felt privileged and humbled to be able to observe the residual effects of this cancer treatment, especially because part of my research was investigating alternative treatment options for breast cancer. It has definitely been a poignant start to my journey at AUC, and continues to reaffirm that I am on the right path for myself.
My desire is to one day be as incredible as the physicians I have been so fortunate to work with at City of Hope. I intend to provide cancer patients the hope and support that many of them so desperately need. I am thankful my path brought me to AUC; a place I believe will provide me the opportunity to achieve what I have pursued for 18 years.