SNMA- AMEC 2018 Conference!
What is the SNMA AMEC Conference? Black excellence in medical school, to put it simply. It is a national conference that is put on by the Student National Medical Association to come together and flourish. It's the one place where black and POC pre-medical students, medical students, residents all coming together to host workshops, lectures, luncheons for networking, and much more. FUBU, LITERALLY. I have been to a lot of conferences, but this was so special and dear to my heart because of the vertical and horizontal learning that was interwoven throughout the conference. You not only had residency directors representing the top schools in the country leading lectures on how to get into the best residency programs, but you also had 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-year medical students, residents, and faculty teaching lectures on how to survive and optimize the hardships of medical school. It's a chance to reconnect with people you may have met along your pre-med/ post-bac years, while creating new lifelong connections.
Luckily I knew about Student National Medical Association due to my premedical involvement, and some family members being apart of the National Medical Association (grown-up real-life doctor version of SNMA). I volunteered at a few events the SNMA put on at our school, but that was the extent of my involvement. A few friends at school convinced me to go to the AMEC conference, and since it was at the beginning of spring break in San Francisco it was an easy excuse to get back to Cali sun!
The first couple of days at AMEC 2018 I was shocked, inspired, and disappointed all at the same time. Shocked because, first of all, why are all these black medical students so beautiful? The amount of melanin magic that was in that hotel, I swear my mouth was dropped the whole time. Inspired because everyone I met was so involved, holding regional and national positions, doing medical research, starting their own clubs, having multiple degrees, just matched into top residency programs- when I say shocked and inspired! Disappointed, initially, in myself. Hear me out. Here I am thinking I'm doing something amazing being a first-year medical student and moving across the country. I got to the conference and felt barely worthy of everyone's presence! I felt so lame at one point in the middle of the conference, I went back to my hotel room, sat on my bed while anxiety overwhelmed me. Luckily our local SNMA president Justine snapped me back into reality. After having lunch and a couple of wines I snapped right out of it, soaking up all the glory and wisdom from the rest of the conference.
Here are four takeaways from my first medical school conference:
1. Network, network, network!
This is something that comes naturally to me on a social level but on a professional level, it is something I need to practice. Although medical school admission is mostly based on your academic performance and communication skills, there is so much more to medical school than just your grades- and that is where networking comes in. I attended a session called "Your Network is Your Net worth: Build Social Capital for Career Advancement", and the title basically says it all. It's no surprise that the medical field is extremely competitive. There seems to be a growing pool of over-excelling medical students for fewer spots. I don't see this as discouraging though, the more qualified practitioners, the better! This session taught me the importance of how we have to change how we see ourselves. We are not the students begging for admission and twisting our application just to hope that an admission committee likes us- we are special and deserve to be here! Answer the question- Am I a resource, and am I worth the investment? If you can't answer that question, why would any medical school/residence admission committee waste their time as well? Attending this session as a first-year medical student, I took away the importance of having an "ask" in an elevator pitch model, with confidence, and grace. I will be working on what I want to leverage my network and focus on creating my investment profile.
2. Be prepared: Sessions and Questions
Before you go to AMEC, give yourself a good couple of hours to prepare so you can maximize every experience during the weekend. I wish I would have done my research and prepare more for the sessions and lectures. I found myself scrolling through the options and wanting to go to every single session that was being offered. Something I will be doing next conference I attend is doing my own research on not just the catchy titles of lectures, but who is teaching them/ leading the workshops. After you make your schedule of which workshops, events, and lectures you are going to attend, think of a couple of questions/goals you have for the session. This is bringing back the essentials from the networking session- prepare your ask and you might get an amazing opportunity out of it! And most importantly, if you do connect with a lecturer, get their contact and please follow up with them the next week. Don't be afraid to email twice. Most of the lecturers are extremely busy, and some advice I got was to not be afraid to follow up, especially if it was a genuine connection/opportunity you were interested in.
3. Push yourself-Attend night/social events!
As medical students, I get it, we are freaking exhausted! Especially after a full conference day, all you want to do is cuddle up in those big hotel beds and catch some Zzzz's. I can't even lie, I did! Especially since it was spring break and I just finished my first neuroscience exam- I was so ready to catch up on sleep. But, the nights that I pushed myself and went out- I regretted the nights I stayed in! This is the one place you are surrounded by people your age, and why not change out the business casual and make some authentic connections in a laid-back setting- it makes a world of a difference. Not saying you have to be out until 6 am, but going to the hotel bar where other SNMA members will be for an hour or two was the move. To really get the most of the nightlife, go to the parties that are put on by the conference (they are lit, especially the Saturday night event!)
4. It's okay to compare- but be inspired, not shaken.
To put things in perspective, as a first year moving from Los Angeles to New York, I made a promise to myself to take my time during my first year of medical school. My main goals were:
a) Pass all of my medical school classes
b) Have a smooth and successful transition to being an official New Yorker
I will write a blog post dedicated to my transition because although it wasn't so smooth, I can say now that I am almost done with my first year, I feel well adjusted and grounded. I no longer doubt my capabilities in my delivery on exams. I feel comfortable in being uncomfortable. I'm used to the long stressful hours in order to deliver on my exams and boards. And I no longer let these New Yorkers get to me by taking things personally (something everything Californian needs to understand about NY). I said this all to say this-this is not usually me! I am usually the girl that is president of organizations and super involved in any school function. To take a step back and focus on transitioning was something I knew was necessary. Although necessary, it left me feeling isolated, especially trying to make new friends a new city. School involvement is where I found my balance and identity in college. To not have that balance and completely focus on science classes and survival skills in a new city was unusual.
At this conference, due to my lack of involvement, I fell into the trap of comparison. I know the one thing you are not supposed to do in life is compare your journey with anyone else, but. BUT. How could you not? I told y'all this was the conference of black excellence! So after many talks with many folks, I realized although there may be some benefits in comparison, you can't take it too far. Without the comparison and seeing people that look like me, act, dance, and talk like me while doing and being excellence, it would be hard for me to realize that I can also be excellent. The personalization of success, and knowing/ redefying your goals was key during this weekend. What I had to learn NOT to do, is look at myself like a bum now because I am not the top of my class, holding multiple national positions, starting NGO's in other countries. For one, I know who I am, and I am solid in that. Be inspired, but not shaken. Just because someone is holding three regional/national positions in an organization doesn't mean they are defeating you. Everybody has their own lane in medicine, and we have to find our own paths, our own way. And when we find it, it's easy, natural, and the stars align to fulfill that purpose. I am taking my original feelings of defeat and make something happen in my journey. I am more inspired than ever to see what more I can accomplish in the next year.
Overall, I left rejuvenated, inspired, and with a full tank, ready to apply myself even more as I complete my first year of medical school. Thank you AMEC for giving me my groove back.
I feel unstoppable and undefeated.