“For any prospective Health Legacy Scholar, please do not give up on yourself or the dream that only you may be able to see at times.” 

 

Jennifer Ruffin

My journey in medicine has been a long, difficult and trying process. However, looking back I am so thankful for the life, education and experiences of struggle that challenged me.   As a native Clevelander, I am excited as a third-year osteopathic medical student to see the fruits of my labor finally take off.  I want to be part of the solution in bringing affordable preventative healthcare to Cleveland’s underserved communities.

For any underrepresented minority, black or brown pre-medical student that is reading this, I say to you-You are so desperately needed in a profession where underrepresented physicians are difficult to come by. Where an entire hospital can be filled with physicians who don’t look or sound like you.  Please take advantage of any post baccalaureate, pre-matriculation and or master’s degree opportunity prior to medical school.  The knowledge you attain in these programs must be looked at as a stepping stone and not a hindrance.  I say this as a medical student who was eager to jump at any opportunity to strengthen my science knowledge, study skills and academic rigor.

After attaining a master’s degree in medical science and medical technology/microbiology, attending a post baccalaureate program and board review program, I am starting the process to apply to residency.  For any prospective Health Legacy Scholar, please do not give up on yourself, or the dream that only you may be able to see at times.  There were times when I had to walk alone and watch my original class proceed toward graduation without me.  I took extra time to study for National Board Exams-which I successfully passed to the surprised shock of my medical school.  Please keep your eye on the prize and do not relent. Your journey is your own, and it can end with success.  The opportunity to write this essay causes me to reflect on my goals as a physician in Cleveland, Ohio.

As an osteopathic physician, I want to take part in Northeast Ohio’s new chapter in making healthcare accessible to ALL residents of Cleveland.  This shift is remarkably different than what I experienced and saw firsthand growing up in Northeast Ohio.  The increased presence of MetroHealth, University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic community clinics in inner city communities is a dramatic change from not that long ago. I remember when two major Cleveland area hospitals closed their doors permanently; leaving some of my family members without access to physicians, health education and consistent monitoring.

Fast-forward 20 years and Northeast Ohio has taken a stand in recognizing the need to bring community clinics to underserved communities, and classrooms.  As an internal medicine physician, I want to continue using education to empower lives with knowledge.  As a lifelong Cleveland resident, it is exciting to know that major Cleveland area hospitals are striving to make and maintain relationships with community leaders and civic organizations to promote wellness and education in local communities.  I want to be a part of a teaching and learning organization that has helped my family during difficult times, and not denied me medical care. MetroHealth is an organization that welcomes those who lack health insurance.  MetroHealth surgeons performed my father’s successful knee surgery, during a time when my father was out of work and without medical care. There were times in my own life when I did not have medical or dental insurance, and I was a patient at the Broadway MetroHealth Medical Center.

I want to be an active part of the solution that does not allow healthcare to leave Cleveland; the consequences are unforgettable.  Also, as a native Clevelander I am truly amazed at the opportunity for my career in healthcare to begin and stay in a community that I grew up.  As I near graduation, I can be part of the greater goal in establishing preventative and primary care in the community I call home.