Rechelle Jackson, D2
Last semester, The PULSE, formally introduced the college’s 12th president, Dr. James E.K Hildreth in our fall edition. Dr. Hildreth was named president in July 2015 and since then has been working tirelessly to make his presence known and goals realized.
However, as the old adage states, behind every great man is a great woman and Mrs. Phyllis Hildreth is no exception. The PULSE was able to have a few moments with the new first lady of the institution and learn more about her past, present and future.
Mrs. Hildreth was born in Berkley, California to an Oklahoma father and Missouri mother. During the interview, she frequently spoke of her love of history and how she felt everything happened for a reason and during a certain time. “I believe that our individual stories and community stories are so heavily marked by larger national and historical stories that seem not to be related, but when we pull back and pay attention we see why something happened,” she recollected.
During the Civil Rights movement, her father graduated from Lincoln University, an HBCU in Jefferson City, Missouri. Concurrently, the Korean War was taking place and opportunities for blacks were very limited. Therefore, young black scientists and doctors ended up on the West Coast where they could thrive.
“I was trained in California schools during a time when Sputnik happened and the Russians got to space first, so everyone felt the need to train more scientists,” she said. She also stated that she was brought up during a time where there were linear roles and individuals had to identify as one particular job. “There wasn’t any deciding my career path, it was fairly organic, the question wasn’t was I going to be a scientist, but more so what kind.”
Although Mrs. Hildreth did major in biology in undergrad and soar through ecology and learning about the macro systems, a part of her did not feel complete because of the lack of interaction with people. “There was no social component, so it did not interest me,” she said. She admitted to enjoying the bonding and identifying with others during her self-proclaimed “15 minute” stint as a pre-med student.
After graduation, working as a laboratory technician for five years did not stop Mrs. Hildreth from her true passion. She instinctively felt the need to help the family and believed that healthy families were the core of healthy communities. “I loved the centrality of maternal child health,” she said. “Maternal and child health systems are the heart of my universe.”
She recalls her last job being at Johns Hopkins University in the pharmacology department. She remembers one of her husband’s mentors pulling her to the side and asking what it was she truly wanted to do because she could not continue to hide in the lab.
“He did me a great service. I would have signed up for a career that did not have much black life or culture,” she said.
With the hopes of pursuing a degree at the School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins and the ultimate goal of studying maternal and child health, Mrs. Hildreth applied to the University of Maryland’s law school. In 1984, she became part of the first law school class at the university to matriculate a large number of African-American students. Incorporating her love of history she said, “With Brown vs. Board of Education they continued to segregate high school and higher education, so this class was a part of completing the desegregation process.”
In the course of her first year of law school, Mrs. Hildreth discovered that she actually liked it. Upon searching for a job during school she was forced to carry around her one-page resume stating that she had majored in biology, worked in a lab for five years and now wanted to be a lawyer. “The only person who said ‘yes’ was the public defender of Baltimore city,” she said. “They put me over the CINA (Child In Need of Assistance) division and I clerked there for the remainder of law school.”
Mrs. Hildreth went on to graduate in 1988—and because of her great work ethic and willingness to work in a narrow, but nevertheless, important area of law, she was offered a position at the public defender’s office. Immediately after swearing in, she had piles of cases waiting for her. “We must focus on that which we have passion and do it with exhausting excellence,” she advised when reminiscing.
Our first lady is currently a professor at Lipscomb University teaching conflict management where she was previously a student in the same program. When asked how she felt about having to move back to Nashville after her husband accepted the president’s position, she said that she had never left after he departed Meharry for California. “We were forced to have a long distance marriage for four years,” she stated. “But during that time I was able to empathize with mothers in a way that I had not previously. I was able to see what it was like for other families to have to do this and make it work,” she continued.
When asked how she deals with the pressure of being a professor, first lady and public figure, she said that she may work long and non-traditional hours, but the minute she gets home she has released everything and work is not the focus. Her hobby, knitting, is also a stress reliever that helps to ease the day’s worries.
In addition to assisting in fulfilling her husband’s goals for Meharry, she also hopes that, by her presence and practice, women of her generation begin to institutionalize a way to be easily accessible. “I want to figure out a way to have couch hours and it will be known that at a certain time on a certain day I will be findable,” she said.
Lastly, Mrs. Hildreth wants all Meharry students, whom she affectionately calls her babies, to know and understand that we are not just training to become doctors, dentists and researchers. We must realize that our purpose is bigger than ourselves, she said, and in some cases the things we want to do may not have been invented yet.
“If your goal is a value, then you have great freedom and flexibility to adapt to the different ways in which that value is manifested and addressed,” she continued. “However, if your goal is to a particular process, when that process is no longer needed, neither are you.”
Bassam Zahid, MSII
It’s looking like another idyllic spring just north of Charlotte Avenue, as the season turns and the trees start to bloom and the birds begin to chirp. For all intents and purposes, Meharry Medical College has had a successful year and we still have a few months left. This year, our school opened up The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education for full-time use. Meharry and 2100, the school’s health and technology interest group, also launched the school’s first mobile app, Meharry Mobile, which was born out of student-administration collaboration. And the School of Medicine Class of 2016 has found its match in competitive residencies and specialties. Justifiably, there is a feeling of accomplishment and success in the air.
But as we pat ourselves on the back, we must also be aware that there is a revolution happening at medical schools across the nation. Certain institutions are leading the conversation on what medical education will look like. They are not doing it based on their name or their rank or their level of experience in medical education. Instead, these schools are reinventing medical education simply by being the first to act.
This past year, University of California, Irvine School of Medicine piloted a program where they distributed Google Glass to third- and fourth-year students in the operating room and emergency room departments. They also gave first- and second-year students the opportunity to test out Google Glass in anatomy labs, the medical stimulation center and in the classroom where live patient-physician encounters were broadcast between the medical center and the lecture hall.
At Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, administrators have revamped their curriculum to include a design track in order to equip medical students with training in design thinking to solve health care challenges. It is the beginning of a trend where the traditional STEM fields are being merged with art disciplines to create STEAM (A for art!). Design thinking is a popular philosophy of execution practiced by designers and, in recent decades, has found its way into fields like computer science, higher education and, of course, health care.
And at the most extreme level, the University of Texas at Austin is opening its doors to the first class of Dell Medical School, an educational institute designed in the spirit of fostering innovation, creativity and design thinking principles from the beginning. They are going so far as to hire designers from the internationally known design school, IDEO, to head up their Design Institute for Health. Their mission is to re-imagine medical education.
In March, I attended the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) conference, an annual student administrators gathering, with Tammi Lavender, director of student life at Meharry, to present some of the advances we have made at our school. In between studying and preparing for our presentation, I attended a talk on “Design Thinking in Higher Education” given by the jCENTER at the University of Minnesota, a think tank dedicated to reinventing higher education using design thinking principles.
Design thinking is used by a number of major design and technology companies from IDEO to Google to IBM to the Stanford d.school (d for design). It is a human-centered, solution-focused, and action-oriented philosophy that revolves around solving problems by acknowledging that there are multiple paths to an answer and that we should be open to them all. Ultimately, design thinking does not reside in the realm of theory. It requires actually doing, making, creating in order to learn and grow.
Design thinking is not necessarily point A to point B thinking. It is a non-linear process that requires one to be systematic and imaginative. At times you want to be razor-focused on the task at hand, while at other times you want to let your mind wander. This is called convergent and divergent thinking. Sometimes you will need to rely on experience and other times experimentation will be more useful.
Design thinking starts with the human. At the beginning, it is important to start with empathy. Who is the population and what are they struggling with? For example, in the classroom, how are the students learning and what can we do to enhance their learning? In the clinics, how can we redesign our teaching so that the patients get the best care possible? Next, we want to define the problem. We want to identify a problem that we can fix. After that, we want to generate as many ideas as possible. This is where the convergent and divergent thinking comes into play. This is a no judgment zone.
I mentioned earlier that design thinking is action-oriented. This is where coming up with a prototype and testing it are paramount. The goal of design thinking is to learn by doing. Instead of great ideas and initiatives becoming lost in the bureaucracy of committees and meetings and emails, the onus is that we act as soon as possible. Ultimately, at the end of the testing phase, you reiterate and return back to the start with empathy. You keep trying to improve your product or service until you have a result you are satisfied with.
So, as I sat in this conference room and listened to the researcher from the jCENTER espouse the amazing benefits of design thinking, it dawned on me: Why are we trying to catch up in a medical education system that will likely be obsolete in 10 years? Schools reinventing their curriculums to include design principles or introducing cutting edge technology to their students or participating in AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium (which includes Vanderbilt by the way) will be rewriting how medical education is delivered. Are we really just going to wait for the change to come to us? What if we paved our own way?
In order to revolutionize medical education, we need to start with the classroom experience. Let’s encourage professors to update their lecture slides every year. The knowledge in medicine doubles every four years and our society is already overwhelmed by information overload. Asking students to look at slides that contain the names of obscure drugs is an exercise in futility when time and resources are limited.
Let’s start videotaping lectures, which will not only allow students to revisit a lecture if they need to, but can also be a way to improve the delivery of content by the professors in the classroom. If professional athletes can break down their tendencies with game film why can’t educators? After all, isn’t teaching an art?
Let’s create a live internet audio feed for all lectures. From the physics of sound waves we understand that these longitudinal waves dissipate over distance so that what students hear in the front will be different from those in the back. I won’t hear the name of that obscure drug the professor mentioned because the sound wave has bounced off the heads and laptops of the 10 rows of students in front of me. But what if I could just put on my headphones and listen to crystal clear audio of the professor as she spoke from the front of the room? Wouldn’t that also cut down on distractions while creating a more personal learning environment?
Let’s begin collaborating with students beyond just putting out an impersonal survey. Organize us in random, cross-disciplinary focus groups and then talk to us. Do the same with administrators, faculty, even the grounds crew. In fact, organizations like Pre-Alumni Association, 2100 and class E-boards should probably do the same for their students, faculty and administrators as well. Let’s start from a place of empathy. As health professionals, isn’t that what we are best at?
These are just a few ideas I have, but what else can we imagine if we put together the experiences and brain power of hundreds of professional students, teachers and administrators? I am calling for a shift in our attitudes and our energy so that we work collaboratively instead of antagonistically. Meharry was the only school that gave many of us a chance to fulfill this once-in-a-lifetime dream. So when we advocate for change, we mean it from a good place. Let’s not forget that.
So as we put the cherry on top of yet another productive year, make sure to enjoy the spring galas and the inauguration festivities. Take the time to reflect on how amazing it is that Meharry is still standing and how we survived the Flexner Report. Give thanks to the giants that paved the way for us and raised the bar. Toast President Hildreth and the graduates of 2016 for leading the way. But remember, after the inauguration, after that collective sigh of relief, the honeymoon is over. Now the real work can commence. Let’s innovate medical education to revolutionize health care. In other words, let’s change the world.
Sara Nelson-Owens, MSIII
Let me tell you why I love him:
“‘Cause he is the truth, and he is so real, and I love the way that he makes me feel”
Not a fairy tale reality, but pretty brown eyes of affection and integrity, an integrity so true that I will
follow him, down the deepest, darkest and the most uncharted pathways of love, life and lust
In him the design of our relationship, as he brick and mortar lays a foundation that won’t be swayed by
earthquakes, hurricanes or waves nor bosses, friends or kids
I believe in him
See in order for him to be the The Truth, there had to be trust and with trust comes believing
“The truth it needs no proof, either it is or it isn’t”
And it is
Because faith told me and she ain’t the average girlfriend throwing salt ‘cause his life is bland, you see
faith believes in things longed for and unseen
so I carry his dreams!
And not like a burden to be laid at the alter, but an ethereal cloud
resting upon my shoulders
I vacation in the cortex his mind just be embraced by him
I reside in the corpuscles of his feet just to be carried with him
I eat, sleep and live in this man’s organs just to be surrounded by him
“You know the truth by the way it feels”
A feeling that paints my soul with joy, that translates into a smile, a smile so commonly formed from ear
to ear just to let the world see my hearts truest reflection of him
“And if I am a reflection of him, then I must be fly, because his light it shines so bright, I would lie”
I wonder if he knows that he is…
Erin Smith, MSIII
You are the BEST?
She said with a smirk
As she prepared herself to hit the dirt
The best of you is of others’ invention!
It spewed from her lips
Like unfiltered venom
You think you’re so smart
But your brain is a weakling
With knowledge borrowed from the pages of Wiki
A great taste in music
Of which you are so proud
Comes straight from that iPhone, from Siri, the Cloud!
That humor and wit
Has others rolling to and fro
Would they laugh at all if they too watched the Late Show?
You are a human compass
But where would you be without GPS?
Completely informed political views?
How informed must you be
To simply disagree with FOX News?
From what I recall
Your sculpted physique
Is the product of photoshop and printer ink
I say one thing of yours is truly the best
You lie and you cheat
To bamboozle the rest
Congrats on your achievement!
You’ve won this round
You’re also the best at pushing me out.
Laeia Jackson, MSIII
This is the beginning
The rich land of kings and queens
Of pyramids and dynasties
And fertility, prosperity, eternity
In our eyes and in our blood is golden
A lineage that runs through the ages
This was our land
Tell us about their lineage
Long, everlasting, and enduring
This is the middle
Things have had time to get complicated
Our legs and hands are tied
And the sound of the whip
The crack against our back drips gold
A cold gold into the ground
That we chose to call our home
And sweat that tilled the soil
Diamonds in the hot summer sun
Tell us about our lineage
We run with barking at our backs
From the crack of the whip and a gun
Tell us about our lineage
But our race has just begun
Every eye is turned north
The source of every dream
The reason that we cry
The reason why we bleed
And this is the end
The end that never comes
A silence that speaks of dreams
The burning cross in your front yard
The end of a looped rope hanging from a tree
Here the stage is littered with bodies
The price of freedom paid
This is our land, our blood is in it
The destination that we cannot help imagining
The beginning of the end,
But only the beginning
Nathaniel Smith, MSIII
The color you were wearing when
we first met wasn’t quite purple
but neither was it blue (i
remember because your
eyes are the color of the
cloudless sky that summer)
…perhaps it was violet?
i knew a violet once.
she was pretty.
but this poem is for you,
Raymond McDermott, MSIII
Lonely is driving through the city with the window down
Too late for dinner with friends, too early for the club
Lonely is voice mail and unanswered text messages
Lonely is much needed me time
that you fill with whatever you can find
gossip, BET, Jersey Shore, prayer, and affirmations
to distract you
Scientifically matter is defined as anything
having or consisting of mass
Force or weight equals mass times acceleration
Lonely is tangible, lonely is heavy, lonely has mass
lonely is matter; so by default
It causes thoughts to race uncontrollably
thoughts of inadequacy
thoughts that question the need for being here
Weight equals mass times acceleration
Lonely equals mass, thought equals acceleration
The two multiplied together produce weight
Being lonely is a weight unto oneself
a heavy load to bare alone
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Whitney Stansbury, MS IV
It begins in November, usually. Senior medical students all over the United States begin interviewing for residency positions. Our flight paths cross one another–Seattle to Miami, Boston to California, then back home again. A visible mapping of our travels would form a thick net of interconnected wishes and hopes. We hope to land ourselves into top programs of our chosen specialties. We hope to remember all the details of dozens of programs, cramming in hotel rooms before interview day. We hope to have the crispest suits and sharpest shoes. We hope for recognition. We hope to stand out. We hope to make an impression.
But where does the enjoyment and learning end and the simply performing begin? When do we stop tap dancing and start being who we are as future physicians? The question sits atop my cerebrum uncomfortably, because I’ve worked so hard….to go to residency and to work harder, of course! Well, no, that’s not quite it. I’ve had to stop and remind myself of my origins. I didn’t come to medical school to be impressive. I came to learn how to be a healer. And I imagine that it’s not much different than you. So how has the drive to be impressive shaped this interviewing season of my life? The true question is one that a wise man asked me once: “Do I want to be impressive, or do I want to be known?”
Residency interviewing season is not the time to tell people what they want to hear. It’s more akin to dating. You take the program out for a drink or for coffee and chat about what truly matters to you both, spilling out the contents of your longing hearts. Okay, perhaps it’s more like speed dating, but, still, this is a time for honesty about what matters to you. Becoming chameleons, compromising one’s true self to impress a program director in hopes of climbing the ranking charts is a regrettable act that lands students into programs that prove unsuitable and incompatible with their aspirations. Kinda like marrying a person under false pretense. Friends! This is a time to travel the United States, to have fun, and most importantly to be true to ourselves. This is a time to be known and to get to know others.
But, in reality, how frightening is that? To be known instead of to be impressive is no feat for the faint of heart. We’ve also been striving to be impressive for almost eight years of our lives, and for many of us, longer, throwing up walls to hide behind for self-preservation. I will speak for myself when I say that performing continually is an exhausting journey–striving to do someone else’s best instead of my own. But that’s okay. There is time to take on the challenge of being who we truly are. I am confident that the challenges will prove to be a small sacrifice for the 3, 5, or 7 year marriage to whichever program you match. So from classrooms in our early years to private practices as seasoned physicians, let us all be courageous. Let us be ourselves. Let us be known.