A Pediatric Psychiatrist's Journey with Shanique Ampiah, MD '14
Jamaican-born and raised in south Florida, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) alum, Shanique Ampiah, MD '14, understands the importance of resilience, mentorship and perseverance in overcoming the barriers and challenges that minority physicians historically have had to transcend in the field.
With her pediatrician serving as an inspiration, she already had her eye on medical school as a child. "My pediatrician was welcoming and reassuring, and the whole atmosphere of the clinic was fascinating to me. I asked to wear his stethoscope and when he placed them in my ears and exposed me to an entire world within, I thought, 'this is what I want,' and I never looked back."
Dr. Ampiah went on to engage in a host of extracurriculars dedicated to STEM, even attending a premedical magnet high school. She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and biology at the University of North Carolina‒Chapel Hill and encountered a roadblock when she was not accepted to medical school on her first application round. ‘’I was devastated. Being a physician had been my dream, and I had worked so hard. To think that it would be impossible was unfathomable.’’
It was her persistence that led Dr. Ampiah to refine her application and pursue a master's degree in molecular medicine from the University of South Florida, where she learned of AUC from a classmate. "When I researched the school, I was sold. AUC gave me the opportunity and set the stage for the rest of my life."
Finding a family at AUC
At AUC, Dr. Ampiah was impressed by the support of the students, faculty, and staff. She recalls one particular staff member in the cafeteria who was always there with a word of encouragement. “Ms. Vivian and the other women in the cafeteria treated me like family. It was heartwarming and it helped keep me on track toward my goal."
During her third-year studies in London, England, Dr. Ampiah had the opportunity to work alongside talented physicians as she rotated through the various specialties. She also engaged in research and presented a poster at the European Stroke Conference.
It was also in England that Dr. Ampiah solidified her career choice as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. During her psychiatric rotation, she was exposed to both inpatient and outpatient psychiatry and saw firsthand the impact that psychotropics and therapy can have in improving patients’ quality of life. “I always knew I wanted to work with children, so pediatric psychiatry is the perfect blend for me.”
Completing her residency at Louisiana State University, and her fellowship at Tulane University School of Medicine, she currently practices at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida. Working with children, adolescents, and their families, her areas of expertise are ADHD, PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, and parent-child relationship issues.
With a passion for mitigating the stigma of mental illness, Dr. Ampiah advocates for her patients and strives to meet her patients and parents where they are, recognizing the impact of social determinants of health and health disparities, and in turn, how these affect access to mental health care.
“The medical system must break barriers to mitigate economic and social obstacles to healthcare, as well as implicit bias, and ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity to get the highest level of care. America is a diverse landscape, and patients need to see physicians who are as diverse as the population they represent."
Her advice to aspiring physicians from diverse backgrounds is to maintain confidence no matter the challenges. "Never give up on your dream and always remember that delay is not denial. Remain diligent and conscientious, hold yourself to a high standard, and recognize your value — and you will make an impact. ‘’
Learn how AUC alumni are making a positive difference for their patients here.