AUC Student Nicole Shaw to focus on solving health care disparities in first-choice residency match program
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) student Nicole Shaw, ‘22 was overwhelmed when she learned she had matched into family medicine at Drexel University/Tower Health. “I had been working towards this goal since I started shadowing physicians at 16 years old. After all that work to reach my goal of becoming a doctor—and after many applications and interviews, I matched with my first choice! It was almost too good to be true.”
Taking action to solve health disparities
Growing up in Oakland, California, Shaw recalls witnessing the profound healthcare inequality. “People in my community often don’t trust medical professionals. This is common in communities of color across America. In my opinion, people don’t feel supported due to the lack of cultural competence, as well as the lack of access and insurance coverage.”
Shaw observed many people who used the emergency room for care and didn’t have a primary doctor. “I saw people with untreated, unmanaged chronic conditions who stayed away until things progressed to a dangerous stage.” These observations increased her desire to work with underserved communities. “There were lots of negative repercussions in the community due to deficiencies in health education and access. Even those living in poverty deserve medical care.”
Shadowing gave form to her future goals
Shaw had the opportunity in high school to be exposed to the hands-on world of healthcare, where her path to med school began. She shadowed physicians at the University of San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital through the Faces for the Future Coalition, a youth education program created to foster exploration of healthcare career opportunities. Later, during undergrad, she shadowed with Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center’s pediatric neurosurgery department.
When it came time to begin the journey to med school, Shaw narrowed in on AUC. “I liked its emphasis on diversity and inclusion, small group collaborative learning, and academic support.” She was accepted into the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) where she spent six weeks strengthening her study skills in preparation for med school.
“AUC is rigorous, and it pushed me academically. But the professors and peer tutors taught study strategies that helped me to discover my study style and directed me to USMLE exam study resources.”
Wellness support for clinical students
During her clinicals at BronxCare Health System (formerly Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center) and the Brooklyn Hospital Center, Shaw participated in AUC’s “Team COPE” (Clinical Outreach and Peer Engagement), an initiative to assist clinical students with personal wellness. “Clinical students need that extra support. With the demands of school and clinical work, students feel the pressure. We have sessions available with a clinical social worker as well as options for learning wellness best practices, so students have a place to turn.”
Ending the academic journey, starting a career
Family medicine has always been the goal. “I am deeply interested in OB/GYN, pediatrics, and geriatric medicine. Family medicine gives me that breadth of knowledge. At the same time, I like the aspect of community outreach in the form of ‘street medicine’—working with refugees, the homeless, and those who don’t have consistent access to healthcare. ‘Boots on the ground’ medicine improves my connection to the community I live and work in.”
Now matched with Tower Health at Drexel University College of Medicine in the Philadelphia area, Shaw will begin her family medicine residency at the end of June 2022. “The program appealed to me because of the quality of the training, the excellent faculty, and engaged residents. It’s an environment that will help me grow as a physician.” Interested in including OB/GYN in her practice as a family physician, she hopes to do a women’s health fellowship. “Often, women of color aren’t taken seriously in a doctor’s office, whether it be in childbirth, pain management, or health education. I want to create a safe space for women of color to discuss their needs.”
Perhaps most gratifying is knowing her parents and two sisters share the excitement. “My mom opened the email with my match location before I opened it myself. My parents always cheered me on throughout my education. My dad is a bus driver, and my mom is a retired phlebotomist and entrepreneur. They certainly know the value of education and how it can open doors.”
Shaw credits her success to the support provided by her mentor during her days shadowing in pediatric neurosurgery. “He made me confident I’d reach the finish line,” says Shaw. “But without AUC, I wouldn’t be where I am today—starting my medical career.”