Dean Julianne Ip on the left
Hey there! I’m Catherine, a member of the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) class of 2019/2023. I’ll writing for Blogside Manner this year, posting updates about the Program, the grueling application process, my life as a Brown student, and Women of Color (WOC) perspectives on being a STEM student at Brown. Hopefully, I can give some insight into the Brown experience, and see some prospective students on campus in the coming years!
You may remember that last week in my talk with Uzo, she mentioned our wonderful advisor, Dean Ip. Well, for my last post I dat down with the lady of the hour to hear some of her opinions on PLME, applying, and the important skills needed to be a physician.
What lead to you becoming a doctor?
I have known since I was about six that I wanted to be a doctor. My dad was actually in medical school in China before the Japanese-Chinese War, but he had to drop out. He always would talk about it. He never pushed, but he always would talk about having been in med school and that he wanted to be a surgeon.
My favorite uncle was a surgeon, so whenever he would come I’d get to play with the stethoscope and hear stories. Then, it was the pretty classic kind of thing. I did a lot of tutoring and teaching in junior high. Then I took biology in ninth grade and that fetal pig dissection was key. After I discovered I really like biology, I did a lot of volunteer work at a renal dialysis center. But, a lot of it was that I really liked working with people through tutoring. I really liked listening to people’s stories and the family thing. That’s kind of how it fell together.
What is your specialty/current work?
I am formerly a family medicine physician. I finished a residency in it and I did urgent care for twenty years. I ran the urgent care and trauma unit for what used to be the local HMO and we had two primary sites, one in Providence one in Warwick. I ran the urgent care for both of those.
In 1999, [the sites] experienced increasing financial difficulties and we were disbanded. In 2000 I left. So, I started working at Health Services [at Brown] and did that part time for about 3 years.
Parallel to running urgent care, I started in 1985 with the PLME and I was able to do both, work as a Dean and do my job as an urgent care physician. For a while it was like a job and a half, but I was able to drop some of my hours especially when I had my son.
In 2003, I stopped doing Health Services and became full time PLME.
What does the Program mean to you?
It means my family. I really think it’s a big part of who I am. It’s who you guys are. It’s the ability to work with students and get them where they want to go. But, also the best way to train them.
[PLMEs] have the flexibility to have a really broad based education and the flexibility to not be stressed. They really learn the most important part about being a future physician which is collaboration which [is a skill] I think pre-meds don’t have. I can’t stress that enough. Doctors do not work in isolation, everything is team oriented. You have to work horizontally with other physicians. You have to work vertically with nurses, physician assistants, the staff secretary, administrators, everybody. So, you need to learn how to do that starting as a freshman in college.
PLME has just been a really core part of my life and I believe in it.
What do think about when reading an application? What do you look for in a PLME student?
What I look for is people that I resonant with. I look for very empathetic, passionate people who are interested in other people. I like students that connect the dots really well. If there is anyway I can read an application and say, “Wow, this person isn’t so tunnel visioned that they can’t see the connection between what they are doing in their one activity versus their academics or their academics and their family”. I look for a lot of interconnections between what students have done in their life and how are they able to articulate that in their essays.
I personally go for more the patient care side. I like a diverse class so I have some PLMEs that are gonna be doing hard core sciences, others that are going to do much more humanities based stuff. But, overall, people that are going to interact with other people, be good team members, be very able to use the open curriculum. If they really want guidance all the time like, “What do I do next?”, then no. Obviously, that doesn’t work here at Brown. If there are people that say, “This is how I solved this problem when I faced it”, I’m like – great. If they are very resilient like if they had a problem or their family had a problem, and they were able to be resilient about it – wonderful. Students like that are what I look for.
Leadership is important. Obviously, they have to be good students because they have got to do the science. Good writers, good communicators. I look a lot at what teachers say about students. I want them to be concerned about others, if they are the ones that help other kids, that comes out a lot in teacher recommendations. And, taking advantage of whatever the school offers. Different schools offer different things, you know. So, you can only do what your school offers. Dedication, all those things.
How does PLME change the college experience?
Phenomenally. I think you guys enter med school a lot less stressed, and you’re well prepared. You might not have as much hardcore science as some of the pre med’s do, but you have a much more mature, grounded approach to your studies. It’s not all about the grades; it’s about learning, connecting with other people and helping them learn because you all want to be the best physicians possible. I think that came out even when I was teaching Doctoring in the Medical School; I could see that in the PLME students.
I think you are also very good at communicating. Again, in the doctoring course, I was able to see when PLMEs interacted with standardized patients, they were pretty comfortable in their own skin. You have to be pretty comfortable yourself to be able to talk to others, and I thought PLMEs had that. Maybe because it wasn’t as competitive or maybe because you were able to do so many other things as you were undergrads. You weren’t sort of boxed in. You didn’t have to do this or that because it was medically related. No, you could do cool things like Rugby. Rugby’s cool. You work as a team. Where else can you do that and as a Varsity sport? You and Uzo (and Lilly, but Dean Ip is not her advisor) doing a varsity sport. I think it is very important. And if you are not an athlete, you are able to be leaders of something in the international clubs that you do like GlobalMed. All the things you do are really important to me, and you have the time to do that because we’re not pressuring you.
The PLME is a very wonderful program for the right student. You really have to make sure it is a good fit. You have to want to be at Brown, and you have to want to take advantage of the program.
If they are good enough to get into the PLME, they are good enough to be a doctor. They need to find a good fit for themselves. They probably got into PLME and Harvard and Yale and Princeton, lots of places. But, you’re gonna have to be with the people you’re with for eight years, so [the PLME] has got to resonate.
So, go with your gut, (it’s a medical term according to Dean Ip) and make sure it is a really good fit. You’re going to be successful, so don’t do it just for golden handcuffs or whatever.
Aaanndd, that’s a wrap. I’ll be honest, time kind of flew by and I wish I could have had a more graceful farewell, but this is my last post. I had an amazing time writing for the Bruin Club these past months, answering your emails, and learning more about my friends’ experiences at Brown. Thank you to my editor, the Bruin Club, and everyone who reads this blog. If you made it this far in my longest post, I love ya 5evah.
Catherine (C-$’ pronounced See Money) Nacier
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Funny Gifs? Rugby Jokes? Cool New Music? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below! I’ll try to respond as soon as I can!