June 02, 2017

Jennifer Neva: Raising the bar

Every year on the eve of Commencement, Michigan Medical School hosts a Graduation Awards Luncheon to recognize the impressive efforts of our graduating class. A few outstanding underclassmen are also recognized at this event, including M3 Jennifer who was awarded the David Ashburn, M.D. Memorial Scholarship Award this year. Here she answers six questions about her Michigan Med life so far, and what she is looking forward to next.

Why do you want to become a doctor?

For as long as I can remember, I have felt drawn to help others, especially those populations that are marginalized. This includes the elderly. When I was in high school, I began working as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home. I fell in love with caring for the residents and learning about their lives. I felt honored to be able to provide aid in the last chapter of their story.

Have you been able to make an impact as a med student at Michigan?

Michigan provides numerous opportunities to its students, and I've been fortunate enough to participate in many that have impacted the school and surrounding community. I've worked with other members of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry to develop a petition to request that faculty remove outdated and derogatory terminology from their lectures. I have volunteered my time at the Student-Run Free Clinic and with the UofM Asylum Collaborative. I have mentored both high school students and undergraduate students through Doctors of Tomorrow and the Health Sciences Scholars Program. I worked with the Child Advocacy Seminar and the Health Equity Scholars Program to develop a health fair day at two Detroit elementary schools to teach 4th and 5th graders about various aspects of wellness. Finally, I have volunteered my time with Galens Medical Society to raise money for organizations that benefit the children of Washtenaw County.

How has Michigan been a good fit for you?

One of the main reasons that I came to Michigan was because of its reputation as one of the best medical schools in the country. The breadth of educational experience and the administrative faculty’s response to a shifting curricular climate have been beneficial for my clerkship preparation. In addition, the willingness of almost any faculty member here to serve as a mentor or to answer questions is unparalleled.

Not only do students at Michigan have this abundance of mentorship available, they also have access to the leading experts in a variety of fields. However, the thing that has most impressed me about Michigan is its students. There is a strong culture of collaboration and encouragement that I believe has helped make me a better medical student. Students are passionate and committed, but I have never felt a sense of competition among my classmates. Rather, their passions motivate me to find what I am most passionate about.

Have any of your experiences at Michigan so far helped shape your future goals?

There are a couple specific experiences. One of these is the Global Health Disparities Path of Excellence. Through seminars, discussions and projects, this program has opened my eyes to both domestic and global disparities that I believe physicians have a role in alleviating. I was further introduced to global health disparities when I traveled to Uganda with Global REACH. The vast inequities that I witnessed while there have encouraged me to pursue a career in which I can help to ameliorate them, either through volunteer work or through research. Finally, I think the vast resources available at Michigan have made me more thoroughly consider pursuing a position in academic medicine.

Are you ready to enter the Branches phase of the curriculum?

Yes, I'm really looking forward to developing my own learning plan. It will be so beneficial to be able to develop my clinical skills and scientific knowledge around a topic that I am passionate about. For example, as a student of the Global Health Disparities Path of Excellence, I could do an international rotation that focuses on health care disparities in developing countries. I am excited to have a flexible path ahead of me and to design a project of my own that helps satisfy the requirements of a particular Branch.

What would you say to prospective students who are preparing to apply to med school this fall and may be considering the University of Michigan Medical School?

I would tell them to decide what is most important to them in a school. For me, it was a medical school community that truly fostered personal wellbeing. I really valued the flex-time quizzing and quiz-free weekends during my first two years, as they allowed me time to focus on things outside of medical school. I was able to travel fairly extensively, visit family and spend time with my dog, Emma.

Additionally, I felt that the pass-fail grading allowed students to be cooperative rather than competitive. In turn, this led to a much happier student population overall. I’ve met some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had here and have also been so grateful for my Doctoring group, who encourage me to continue to improve as a student and as a future healthcare provider.

These things, in addition to an administration that readily responds to student concerns and promotes wellbeing with frequent wellness activities, have been vital to my emotional and physical health throughout my time at Michigan. If any of these things, or attending a top ten medical school, are important to them, they should certainly consider Michigan! It is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I enjoy being able to share my love of Michigan with my family and friends.