Speaking the Truth

How two students shared their medical school experience through podcasts

As of April 2020, Melanin in Medicine has 39 episodes available to everyone free of charge. If you would like to check out Ferguson-Square’s and Osei’s podcast, you can find them by searching for “Melanin in Medicine” on Anchor.fm, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or a variety of other streaming sources.

MCAT’s. Pre-med classes. Applications. This trifecta of medical school requirements brings chills to the most accomplished of medical students and especially more-so to college students aspiring to become doctors. Pre-med students face many obstacles that can make the application process extremely overwhelming. Often questions arise such as “What classes should I take?” or “Who should I find as a mentor?” Luckily there are two first year medical students at KUMC who are happy to help. First year medical students Kiatana Ferguson-Square and Florence Osei created a podcast called “Melanin in Medicine”, which aims to provide advice to aspiring medical students, discuss their own experiences with medicine, and interview others in the medical field.

“About a [year and a half] ago, I went to Flo and said ‘it would be nice to start a podcast to basically tell people about things like the MCAT, what the MCAT is and how to be a premed. Flo said, ‘That would be really cool, I could help you with it’, and it was magic ever since. We started [Melanin in Medicine] in October 2018 and while it was quite a bumpy start, we got things eventually.” Ferguson-Square said.

Melanin in Medicine covers a wide variety of topics, from finding recommendation letter writers all the way to sharing their experience as brand-new medical students. Osei described the process they go through to come up with discussion topics and plan out the content of each episode of the podcast.

“When we first started, we talked about things we didn’t know in undergrad, like when to apply to med school or interview suggestions, just things we wish we could have known at the beginning of our journey. We also like to make our episodes conversational. People like how they can relate to us, so we try not to have a script. Either Kia has a topic, or I have a topic and then we do research on the topic, but we don’t plan a script. We talk about what we feel.”

An interesting aspect of Ferguson-Square and Osei’s podcast is that they target a wide audience and expose them to unique individuals in the medical field.

“We try to have more diverse guests [on the podcast]. The first episode, we had Alexis Yakes [M1] who went to Berklee for music in undergrad. She identifies as Latin heritage and had a different background for education. We also try to educate ourselves about the audience by reading comments to get an idea of who our major and minor audiences are,” Ferguson-Square said.

Their podcast has been met with positive feedback from their audience, who have formed a connection with the way that Ferguson-Square and Osei provide medical school application advice. In addition, many students find support from Ferguson-Square and Osei as they navigate the pre-med process themselves.

I’m always super surprised when people say ‘Oh my goodness I feel like you guys are my best friends’ Ferguson-Square said.

“Like, we’re lame!” Osei interjected.

“We hear a lot of good feedback from people who say ‘my GPA is horrible, but I want to go to med school. Is it possible?’. I think it’s so cool that people see [Melanin in Medicine] as a really useful resource, especially when people like teachers or counselors say that with those stats you aren’t going to make it,” Ferguson-Square said.

In the future, Ferguson-Square and Osei want to discuss more about their personal experiences as medical students on the podcast and help pre-med applicants understand the path that lies ahead in medical school.

“We have no idea what third year [of medical school] looks like, and we can’t imagine what residency looks like. Even in the summer we didn’t know how our first year would be. [Now], we like to tell people what first year looks like and what our blocks look like. During interviews, [students] can explain their medical school’s curriculum but it still doesn’t make sense to people. To be able to tell people what we are going through and what we are studying would help them where we didn’t have the help,” Ferguson-Square said.

Osei concluded by talking about how they use Melanin in Medicine as an outlet for personal growth, and to show their audience the truths behind the medical student experience.

“We are big proponents of self-reflection. I know we did this more as early M1’s, but we like to reflect on things we could do better and things we can improve on. I think when people see students in medical school, they say ‘Oh my gosh, you are so great’, but for people to also see our failures in medical school is great too.”

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