Through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program, The Ohio State University and 10 additional Ohio colleges and universities are helping to increase underrepresented student success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. As one of 78 LSAMP scholars on the Ohio State campus, MiChaela Barker has found a community that not only understands her on a cultural level but on an academic level as well. MiChaela recognizes that being a minority student at a predominantly white institution can be, at times, challenging. “Having other people who not only look like me, but are taking a lot of the same science courses as me not only made me feel supported on an academic level, but on a personal level as well. I know that within this group, I have not only found study buddies, but I have found lifelong friends.”
Even with such a strong support system, MiChaela had to adjust to how large college classes were compared to those in her high school. “Coming into lectures that could be upwards of two hundred people was a lot for me to process, especially coming from a high school where the largest class size would be about thirty students.” What helped MiChaela with this transition was gradually breaking out of her comfort zone. “It started off with me casually introducing myself to the people sitting next to me in classes. After that, I took the time to introduce myself to my professors after class, and I would visit them during office hours or schedule my own appointments. This taught me to be much more independent, to break out of my shell, and to not be ashamed of asking for help.”
A fourth-year student majoring in Public Health with a specialization in Environmental Science, MiChaela is on the pre-medicine track. She chose Public Health because even though she is planning on becoming a doctor and seeing patients, MiChaela wants to improve the health of her community members before they even step foot in a hospital. “I am an advocate for ending disparities across racial and socioeconomic groups, so I wanted to know how I could help to bridge those gaps. Within my major, we talk about where these disparities lie, what can be done about them on a medical level and what we can do as a community at a service and policy level to help improve not only the lives of individual patients, but the lives of all of those living within a community.”
LSAMP and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has provided MiChaela with opportunities to expand her horizons. “I have been able to acquire internships such as the one that I participated in this past summer under Ohio State’s medical school in the Ophthalmology department, be a Peer Mentor for other students of color, meet with faculty, network with doctors, have support in finding research opportunities, and build friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds who have contributed so positively to my life.”
MiChaela also was able to do research as an undergraduate student that analyzed the use of Epi-Pens through online resources. She chose this topic because it not only discusses a tool that is utilized in the medical field, but because it also raises questions about how and what type of knowledge is being passed on to the public. MiChaela’s research entailed looking at YouTube videos of people showing how to use an Epi-Pen and seeing if their directions matched up with those laid out by the makers of the device. MiChaela is researching to see what happens if the videos provided turn out to have false information, which could potentially make the patient worse off.
Her research ties back to MiChaela’s understanding of the disparities that can occur in healthcare within the United States. “Many people in our country, especially those of minority descent, cannot afford healthcare. Because they cannot afford it, their access to knowledge about certain healthcare topics could be severely lacking or overall just not exist. If someone goes into anaphylactic shock and does not have anyone around who knows how to use an Epi-Pen, they will probably call 911 first, and then look up how to use the pen.”
Having been supported by both LSAMP and ODI, MiChaela is looking forward to the chance to give back to students following in her footsteps. “Both of these programs and the people involved in them have invested so much in me academically, socially, and professionally, that it is only right to give back. LSAMP and ODI have been such a village to me, and I want someone else to have the same positive experience that I have.” MiChaela already serves as a peer mentor to her fellow students, but what she is most excited about is when she becomes a medical professional and is able to speak to LSAMP and ODI scholars as an alumna and to continue to mentor them. “I want people to see that no matter how hard times may seem, you can always persevere and achieve your goals.”
MiChaela will graduate in Spring 2018, and upon graduation she plans on attending medical school to become a physician while remaining very active in service to the communities that surround her.