Featuring Rebekah Russell

I began my pursuit of medicine before the beginning of the 2019 pandemic, however the pandemic changed my experience during my first year of medical school. My first year of medical school was completely virtual which impacted my ability to explore various specialities through shadowing and my ability to make connections with classmates. Despite that experience, the pandemic reinforced the disparities faced by minority populations across the world. I became more empowered to focus my career on addressing the social and health inequity as a result of the pandemic.

I have always wanted to be a physician and have never lost my interest despite facing obstacles. I think my initial interest came from my pediatrician who really demonstrated the importance of building relationships with your patients. Even though I was a child, I could feel that she was trustworthy and someone who would take care of me. My interest in medicine was further developed when I completed my 7th grade Body’s System Project and could not stop talking about the brain and the heart. While in high school, I pursued opportunities that allowed me to experience science and medicine. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to mentors that supported me and further validated that I had what it takes to become a physician.

A gift that I believe has and continues to help me in my pursuit of becoming a physician is my ability to see and experience the world from multiple perspectives. I think this characteristic is important because the art of medicine is being able to build relationships with people in order to maintain health. My high school experience made me aware of this talent, because I was able to navigate the cultural, racial and economic differences between my peers, myself and the community for which I was accustomed to in East Cleveland, Ohio. After high school, I continued to cultivate my talent by taking advantage of opportunities to expose myself to different cultures by studying abroad, joining dance groups while in undergrad and volunteering with organizations that allowed me to use the Spanish language.

I was afforded the opportunity to begin preparing for a career in medicine while in high school. I began by doing research and shadowing physicians. This exposed me early on to the rewards and demands of a career in medicine. While in undergrad, I prepared for a career in medicine by taking leadership roles in my sorority and other organizations on campus. During my graduate education, I developed and completed my own research projects and began the publication journey by presenting at conferences. In addition, I have prepared for my career by staying active in volunteer opportunities, as medicine is a career of giving oneself to others.

I intend to serve the Cleveland community by being aware of the social challenges to health and taking active efforts to reduce those barriers for patients. Cleveland is a city that, despite the numerous healthcare institutions, still suffers from poor health outcomes. Many of these poor health outcomes are tied to the social landscape of the city which is plagued by racial and economic segregation, poverty, and community violence. I plan to use my research to show these associations between social factors and health and then advocate for policy changes that will help to improve social barriers. I began taking steps towards these goals by finding a 2021 summer placement at Circle Health which allowed me to learn more about the social barriers that individuals face in Cleveland. Also, how those barriers impact these individuals in terms of staying healthy and accessing medical care.