Name: Titilope Ishola Fasipe
Specialty: Pediatric Hematology Oncology
Fellowship: Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital
Residency: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Medical School: University of Texas Medical Branch
Undergraduate: University of Texas Arlington
1) When did you decide you wanted to become a Medical Doctor and what led to this decision?:
I decided sometime in late childhood that being a doctor was what I wanted to do. My mother is a nurse so I was always looking through her nursing books to learn about diseases. I was also influenced by moving back to Nigeria and seeing the disparity in the healthcare system there. The disease that captured my attention the most in regards to that disparity was sickle cell disease.
2) What was the most difficult part of getting into Medical School for you?:
MCAT! (I still get hives seeing/saying the word, haha… no joke though)
3) How did you study for the MCAT? How do you recommend students study for the MCAT?:
After comparing Princeton and Kaplan, I decided on the Kaplan course (more because of schedule/price).
My main recommendations are to:
–Take the TIME to study. I was obsessed with entering medical school ”on time” so I took the Kaplan course during my (very busy) Junior year of college in order to take the April MCAT. This was ”back-in-the-day” when MCAT was only offered 2x/year (I’m glad people have more options with timing now). So I juggled my college/extracurricular work during the day and took Kaplan twice weekly in the evenings. I was always exhausted and definitely slept off several times during the classes. I didn’t do all the practice exams. The only exam practice I had were the few mandatory ones the course made you take. So I basically didn’t put my investment to good use. If I had to do it over, I would study during a light-loaded semester or possibly consider after graduation.
–Take a course. Unless you are a certifiable genius and aced practice MCATs on your own. Don’t play the ”study on my own” game. NOT worth it. I know it’s annoying to pay all that money for a course (sadly, some of us get our first credit card or get extra loans to afford it) and it does take extra time, but MCAT is not about how smart you are in college (even if you have a 4.0 GPA) – it’s about how to take a very specific exam. This is a skill-set that most people need to develop with a course. I only know one friend who took it on her own who did well – she was a genius.
4) What did you do during your undergraduate summers?:
First 2 summers, I took summer semester courses. The last summer, I did research for my Honors thesis through a 2 year research grant/scholarship from Louis Stokes funding. Other things I did: study abroad and leadership camps.
5) What is one thing you wish someone told you while you were in college?:
–If medicine/healthcare is your goal/dream, then attend a school that has a pre-med preparation system in place. Mine did but I only learned later how important that was.
–Don’t be in too much of a hurry, graduating at a young age or staying on track doesn’t matter. This is a marathon, not a sprint and there’s no prize at the end on who finished first/fastest – the prize goes to those who endure. (See my point above about MCAT.)
–Know thyself. Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses. And learn how to discuss them appropriately.
–Don’t forget to get shadowing experience. This sounds like an obvious thing, but we get busy with our college lives and doing all the leadership stuff, volunteering, classes, etc. You need to expose yourself to what doctors actually do. I would recommend considering a summer medical school pre-med/prep program if possible (one of my regrets is that I never did any of those programs).
6) What led you to choose your current specialty?:
See my answer to question 1. I had personal reasons for a career in hematology but my decision was solidified in medical school. I already learned about the global disparity, firsthand, but in medical school, I learned more about the disparity sickle cell patients face in America. Hematology was a done deal. I chose pediatrics over internal medicine because adults are gross (just kidding… kind of…). Seriously, I felt I could make more of an impact by changing the course of a sickle cell patient’s life by addressing issues early on. And, the bonus is that kids are cute! I love working with (most) parents as well and giving them hope/comfort in addition to caring for their child.
7) What is one thing that a mentor did for you which has had a lifelong effect on your career?:
I’m grateful to so many mentors – college, med school, residency, and fellowship. They saw my potential and helped me see it too. Tangible things done for me – listening to my ups/downs, giving great advice, and informing me/nominating me for awards and opportunities. I felt all of these kept me on track (and even successful) with my chosen career path.
8) Briefly describe your average work day:
I am in my last year of fellowship, so my work life involves mostly research days in the lab mixed with clinic/inpatient duties. I have one clinic day a week where I see my continuity patients. Then I also work a few weekends which involve managing the hematology/oncology service and taking calls from ERs, families, and other doctors. A fellow is like being a secondary attending/ apprentice to the attending. You generally speak for the team and are treated more as a colleague than a trainee.
9) What do you enjoy most about your profession? What do you enjoy least?:
Most — my patients and their families (it’s truly a rewarding feeling to be part of a care team even during the sad times)
Least — nobody tells you this… but doctors are actually glorified secretaries/admins – no offense to those professions, it’s just hard to do all the medicine stuff plus the paperwork stuff.
And of course, the ultimate least, it can be devastating when a patient has a poor/senseless outcome or dies.
10) What words of advice would you like to leave with pre-medical students?:
See question #5 and here’s a few more points.
–This point may not be popular but I feel it needs to be said. You may have seen the joke post that states: ”African career options: 1) Doctor, 2) Lawyer, 3) Engineer, 4) Disgrace to the family.” You may have laughed but some know this is based on an oft true stereotype (not just of Africans, of course). Please don’t go into medicine for these reasons:
–Money: there are better/quicker ways to make money, trust me.
–Because it’s someone else’s idea (see joke above). It’s okay to take advice and to consider career options put forth by parents, other family, friends, teachers – but somewhere along the way, you have to be self-motivated; otherwise you’ll just be miserable pleasing other people
–PA, NP, PT, etc are not dirty words. There are many rewarding fields in healthcare, a doctor is just one of them.
–DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) is also not a dirty word
–I know after the point above, it may seem like I’m saying ”don’t be doctor” – far from it! I just want you to be well-informed about your chosen career path and I known several ”pre-med” friends who found themselves happier after choosing other paths.
–So let’s say you are sure medicine is your path. Then don’t be ignorant to the barriers that potentially stand in your way. MCAT is probably the most common barrier, but there are several other challenging circumstances many of us face. That’s why I’m happy this DiverseMedicine website/organization exists. Continue to seek mentorship and guidance to help you along the way. Obstacles can be overcome!
All the best to you all!