Medical School Life at UCSF and Golden Tips!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Today, we are so grateful for the opportunity to interview a talented alum: Manuella Lewetchou Djomaleu! Manuella graduated from UMD in Spring of 2020 with a major in Biological Sciences: Physiology and Neurobiology. She is currently in her second year of her MD program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Manuella shares valuable tips and insight about the medical student life!

Life at UMD

Manuella Lewetchou Djomaleu photoAs a very active member of campus life, Manuella was a Resident Assistant, peer mentor for students at the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), a teaching assistant for BSCI 440: Mammalian Physiology, a coordinator with Terps for Change, and a participant of two Alternative Breaks. Volunteering in D.C. enabled Manuella to see the impact of service and how their experiences have the ability to shape our perspective. Manuella was also involved in research through the BioFIRE (First-year Innovation and Research Experience) living-learning program. Being awarded a BioFIRE Summer Fellowship grant enabled her to pursue her research interest in identifying the presence of frameshifting signals in the human genome.

“In undergrad, we spend a lot of time focusing on GPA, MCAT, and ‘checking the boxes.’ Your focus is primarily about getting in. It’s also very important to not attach self-worth and identity to your ability to be a competitive medical school applicant. Take time to think about your dreams and goals. Embrace learning and focus on growing!”

What inspired Manuella to pursue medicine?

Growing up, Manuella’s love for science fueled her drive to pursue either medicine or a PhD. Through experiences, she realized that a PhD wasn’t for her. During her time as an active participant of Alternative Breaks at UMD, Manuella gained community service experience and realized how much she loved hearing people’s stories and speaking about social justice.

“Not knowing anyone in medicine, I worried about connections. Self-doubt was a fear that followed me throughout my entire journey. But, through the help of my community and mentors, I gained clinical experience and was empowered to see the power in myself to become a doctor for generations to come.”

Shadowing a pediatrician at a Federally Qualified Healthcare clinic, which includes community-based health care providers who provide primary care services in underserved areas. Seeing people who look like her and enter the clinic with health concerns that her family members had resonated with Manuella. Guiding families like a lamp in the dark was inspiring.

“I first hand saw the physician’s role in a patient’s life- the ability to create peace, joy, and love in a patient’s life. Many patients come into the clinic vulnerable. It is your responsibility to do justice for that person. I want to be a good doctor, who fill in the gaps and helps patients on their journey”

She learned about the connection between medicine and identity as well as the importance of taking into account a patient’s social context when providing health care. She was amazed by the doctor’s interactions and time spent with patients. As the first physician in her family, Manuella is excited about embarking on this journey and hopes to be an advocate for black, brown, and indigenous communities around the world.

“As an immigrant who grew up without stable healthcare, I didn’t have a pediatrician. If every kid grew up with a pediatrician, what would the world look like?”

Medical School Life

Founded in 1864, UCSF is ranked #2 in primary care and #4 in research by US News and World Report. The UCSF School of Medicine offers three formal programs: MD, MD/PhD, and MS/MD with the University of California Berkeley. The Bridges Curriculum has three phases: Foundations 1, Foundations 2, and Career Launch, where students choose clinical experiences and a scholarly project tailored to their interests.

As a student representative of UCSF’s Student Government Association, Manuella serves as a liaison between faculty and students and presents student concerns to the dean. She also works virtually at student-run free clinics. During her second year, Manuella redirected her focus on global health research. Her research’s target community are individuals and families in Sierra Leone. Through literature review and the support of “Partners in Health,”  Manuella works to understand the long-term socioeconomic effects three years following the Ebola endemic.

At UCSF, there are numerous resources aimed to help students, ranging from advising and career development to the Medical Student Well-being program, and many student organizations. Also, it is common for UCSF students to take a gap year to pursue research in a topic of their interest. Manuella plans to take a gap year in medical school following her second year!

Golden Tips: 

“Reflecting on my journey, I now see the value of a gap year. As you begin medical school, you may gradually have less autonomy over certain aspects of life. Taking time between undergrad and medical school would give you the opportunity to grow, find things you enjoy outside of medicine, and solidify your identity outside of academics!”

“It’s okay to not have everything figured out during undergrad! We are all on our journey at our own pace. Keep growing and learning!”

“Learn about the communities you want to serve. This will help you discover what impact you want to have when you become a physician! AmeriCorps is a great opportunity to serve different communities!”

Editor: Supraja Kanipakam