Brittany Thompson: The Perfect Match for Psychiatry
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) alum Brittany Thompson knew if she graduated medical school in a psychology track, she’d be setting a precedent. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Black clinicians represent only 2% of practicing psychiatrists and 4% of psychologists. “Knowing this made me even more determined to press onward towards my goal,” she said.
Now Dr. Thompson is looking forward to more than just practicing psychiatry. She’s celebrating graduation from medical school and the beginning of her career in medicine—an accomplishment she’s worked hard to earn. Matching for a competitive psychiatry residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin is the realization of her dream, achieved with perseverance and determination.
Scaling Obstacles to Reach Her Goal
Born in The Bronx, New York, to Jamaican immigrants, Dr. Thompson’s family moved to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and then settled in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the first things she recalls noticing about the Atlanta community is the diversity of the community. “There were people there who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds.” Moving frequently also forced Thompson to navigate some challenging situations in her childhood and adolescence. “I began to think about how the social environment plays a role in mental health.” I wanted to find a way to give back to kids who don’t have adequate access to health care and are facing the same obstacles I did.”
Dr. Thompson remembers her father taking an interest in going to medical school, and even accompanied him to his undergraduate classes when a babysitter wasn’t available. While her father wasn’t able to finish medical school, he earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology, a master’s degree in public health, and a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. “It made a big impression on me. He supported my choice to pursue an MD degree,” she recalled.
Finding Her Way to AUC and Psychiatry
Her experiences in Atlanta led her to initially choose a sociology major at nearby Kennesaw State University. “I started as a sociology major and switched to biochemistry. While I had an appreciation for molecular sciences, I still was fascinated with the material I learned in sociology. I didn't know I wanted to combine my interest in behavioral/social sciences until I took behavioral sciences at AUC.”
After undergraduate school, Thompson went to Yale to complete a research fellowship that focused on helping underrepresented minorities into Ph.D. and MD Ph.D. programs. “I liked working in the lab, but I loved working with people so much more. I realized I wanted to pursue psychiatry after taking behavioral sciences at AUC.”
Preparation to Match
Dr. Thompson believes her AUC education and support systems prepared her to match at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “I took full advantage of the academic support and tutoring at AUC. The faculty is a terrific resource for encouragement, as is the Black Medical Student Association (BMSA) on campus.” She worked hard to make the Dean’s List and began preparing for Match Day by attending conferences and networking with program directors to stand out and make a name for herself. “Networking was a big part of my preparation to match.”
Dr. Thompson wanted to be in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s residency program because the staff demonstrated the same values she had been seeking for her future career. “It seemed like the perfect place to do my psychiatry residency. I appreciated their focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as resident wellness.”
As she looks toward her future, Thompson plans to work in academia and wants to advocate for underserved populations. “Communities of color are more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities, such as exclusion from health and economic resources. My medical journey has prepared me to get to residency by having great role models, like the faculty at AUC, who demonstrate what it means to show compassion and empathy for patients.”
Her advice for aspiring physicians is to find mentors early. “The minute you identify the specialty you’re interested in, find the people who believe in your vision.”
Start your own journey to Match Day at AUC here.