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Mikisa Solomon, Medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, shares how she overcame rural life
Mikisa lives by this quote, “The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” This quote is her daily motivation.
Pinkspen: If you could describe yourself in 5 words, what would you say?
Mikisa: I would say I am self-motivated, ambitious, focused, God-fearing, and grounded.
Pinkspen: Being “grounded” is so important because you are able to keep the important things first. What would you say keeps you grounded?
Mikisa: My mom and I have been extremely close all my life. She taught me to love God and raised in the church. She taught me to have faith and to make my goals a priority. She taught me how to be the motivated person I am today.
Pinkspen: I think that it is great that you have such a great support system because every Leading Lady needs a strong team of women in her corner. Finish this sentence, a Leading Lady is _______________________________.
Mikisa: a Leading Lady is someone who is whoever she wants to be. It does not matter what she is passionate about, she just goes for it.
Pinkspen: I love that! That is exactly what being a Leading Lady is all about. So, you grew up in Connellsville, Pa, a small rural town outside of Pittsburgh, PA. What was one of your greatest obstacles going from a small town to a big city?
Mikisa: It was a real culture shock going from a high school with a graduating class of 350 people to Penn State’s main campus was difficult to adjust to at first. I was definitely intimidated at first, but going to a college on a big campus helped me discover who I am.
Pinkspen: My experience was the opposite type of culture shock; going from a big city to California University of Pennsylvania, a small rural campus, but I learned so much about myself. What did you discover about yourself at Penn State?
Mikisa: Back in my hometown, being one of the only black girls in my school and neighborhood was tough. My self-esteem was not high and I was always around white girls, so I was never considered the “pretty girl,” in my group of friends. After graduating from high school, I attended The Pennsylvania State University and all of the sudden, I was around so many people with every skin tone possible, various hair types, unique beliefs and viewpoints, and fresh mindsets. It was during this time that I began to see the beauty within myself. So much so, that I even decided to start my natural hair journey.
Even beyond getting a great education at Penn State, I am so thankful that I was able to gain the confidence that I needed to move forward, fearlessly, with my life. Going to Penn State helped me realize that there is so much more out there, so many more people. It gave me confidence and I slowly became comfortable with meeting new people and going out.
Pinkspen: So you got your bachelors degree at Penn State in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. What sparked your interest in the medical profession?
Mikisa: When I was younger, I had many health issues between ages 4-13. I was diagnosed with scoliosis, so I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I loved my doctors. I also remember going to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and I always leaned toward science over every other subject. I just love it. My parents fostered that passion in me since I was a kid and now, I want to make youth and women feel just as good as I did when I was in the hospital.
Pinkspen: That is so admirable; and now you are attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. What was the process that you had to take to get to this point?
Mikisa: I began studying for the MCAT [Medical College Admission Test] the spring of my junior year by using on online Kaplan course; it was very expensive but worth the investment. I did that while being a full time student at Penn State,working as a waitress to earn some extra money, and shadowing a doctor once a week.
I took the MCAT the summer between junior and senior year. When I passed, I began applying to medical schools in August in my senior year. I applied to 7 schools, interviewed at 5 of them and got accepted into 4 of them. I chose Pitt University because I always wanted to attend the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM)!
Pinkspen: I am so glad that all of your hard work has paid off. I am sure that was not easy. So with everything that is going on in our world with race and gender equality. Have you experienced difficulties while attaining your medical degree as a African American and a female?
Mikisa: Actually, I have not. I experienced more of that in my hometown. As an African American woman, growing up in a primarily white area was extremely difficult. One of the main things that I struggled with, other than having experienced my fair share of racism, was my low self-esteem. It was hard to see myself as being beautiful when I looked so different from all of my friends and peers. When everyone around you has long, straight hair, fair skin, thin noses, smaller lips and different body shapes than you, you begin to devalue the natural beauty that comes along with being a black woman.
There was such a mixed environment at Penn State and at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM). There are more women than men in my program. We are taking over! I love the school; the people are great, the city is beautiful, and the professors treat you like colleagues, which helps to learn effectively. Even though I do not want to live in a rural community anymore, I still think that coming from a rural area helps to keep me grounded and self-motivated in such a big city.
Pinkspen: Well, the city welcomes you Kisa. So, what is the next step after you get your medical degree?
Mikisa: I plan to begin my Residency. I have to apply and then interviews will take place. During the interview, I am ranked based on status and then you can be placed in a residency program based on rank. They place you throughout the U.S. and I have no control over where I am located; I would love to stay in Pittsburgh, but I am willing to go anywhere.
Pinkspen: As someone who seems to really care for youth and women, our city could use a Pediatrician like you Kisa. What do you see for your future as a medical professional and what specific area do you want to focus in?
Mikisa: Once my Residency is completed, my goal is to be a Pediatrician or an OB/GYN. I want to make youth and women feel like I did when I was in the hospital as a child. I loved my doctors. Being a Pediatrician is my dream. In the long-term future, I would love to do Doctors without Boarders someday, and also work in a Free Health Clinic for those that cannot afford quality health care.
Pinkspen: It is so amazing that you have the desire to help those in need financially and economically. Do you have any personal goals that you would like to accomplish alongside your professional goals?
Mikisa: Well, currently, I am in a long-distance relationship. I want to be a wife and a mother someday, but right now, I am focused on myself professionally. School takes up most of my time, but my boyfriend and I take turns visiting one another. It is always amazing to see him and spend time together. It is not easy but he is so supportive and we are making it work the best we can.
Pinkspen: I wish you and your boyfriend the best. I know LDRs are not easy but having his support it amazing. Is there any advice you would give to other women and girls who are up-and-coming career women?
Mikisa: My advice would be the following:
- Make small goals
- Meet with professors and advisers
- Use your college resources
- Find a mentor that has been in your shoes
- Spend time with people that are doing better than you
Mikisa Solomon, is a rising second-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM). She obtained her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The Pennsylvania State University from 2012-2016. While at Penn State, she completed two years of biochemistry research, worked as a Resident Assistant (RA), was involved in Global Medical Brigades and the Pre-Medical Society, and was a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, which is a National Health Pre-Professional Honor Society. Currently at UPSOM, she is a mentor to first year medical students, a coordinator for a MED-PEDs interest group, a secretary for the Student National Medical Society (SNMA), and an active volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
To connect with Mikisa, you can find her on Facebook as Kisa Solomon.