"SHPEP confirmed my desire to learn about and work in health care."
Mr. David Graham participated in SHPEP in 2022 at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. In May of 2024, he will graduate with a bachelor's degree in cell & molecular biology. Mr. Graham serves as a SHPEP Ambassador, and has also shadowed and worked at the University Hospital Newark and Robert Wood Johnson New Brunswick University Hospital.
Mr. David Graham participated in the 2022 SHPEP program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. In May of 2024, he will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in cell & molecular biology. Mr. Graham is scheduled to take the MCAT in July of 2023 with plans to start medical school in the fall of 2024. In the meantime, Mr. Graham shadowed and worked at University Hospital Newark and Robert Wood Johnson New Brunswick University Hospital.
What path did you take when you first started college?
I took the biological sciences/ pre-med track immediately in college. I always knew I wanted to be a doctor.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
Medicine has always resonated with me. Caring for my late grandmother who suffered from pancreatic cancer, I despaired from my lack of knowledge on how to help outside of reading the label of countless medications. When my mom started dialysis for her sudden kidney disease, I felt even more so ineffectual. I played football in high school and when that part of my life ended due to an injury I suffered during a practice, I was in and out of hospitals trying to better myself. During that time, I dove deeper into research about a career in that field. In doing my research, I eventually became enamored with the idea of care. I found a new appreciation for the medical doctors taking charge of me and my family. I gravitated towards the idea of treating not only the person but the root cause of their infirmity and taking care of them in the process. From that point on, I set my sights on working in medicine.
Who inspired you?
Professors who showed a genuine concern for my progress and the doctors taking charge of my family’s care.
What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?
The death of my loved ones and the football injury that I suffered during practice. In 2017, I was admitted to the hospital after experiencing a traumatic shoulder dislocation that tore through my labrum and even chipped my humeral head. In 2019, I suffered a less traumatic version of the same injury. Both instances required surgery.
What are some of your recent milestones?
I became a SHPEP Ambassador, made the dean’s list, was awarded the Lambda Alpha Sigma award, and passed five hundred clinical hours
What makes your story unique?
I have faced countless instances of adversity and I have pushed through them despite my initial doubts and struggles. I was not always as diligent as I am now. It took real concern and reason to look myself in the mirror and determine what kind of person I wanted to be. I got my first job at 14 and have been paying my applicable bills and expenses since then.
How did SHPEP influence you?
SHPEP confirmed my desire to learn about and work in health care. I was exposed to countless patient experiences which helped polish my interpersonal, medical interpretation, and leadership skills through the coursework and clinical enrichment activities.
What has been your favorite part of the process, and the most difficult?
Meeting people with the same goals and drive was my favorite part of the process. Their motivation pushed me to do more, and I did not feel alone on the journey.
The most difficult part was getting my foot in the door and staying completely motivated and focused despite so many mentally demanding requirements in what felt like such a short amount of time.
Did you have experiences or mentors that prepared you for a career as a health professional?
Professor Kerrylyn Konecny was initially my biology professor during my first in-person semester at my institution. She expressed genuine concern with student progress and that resonated with me in countless ways. As I shared my story and become closer with her, she supported me throughout my pre-med journey. She has been a pivotal factor to my success and has been such an influential mentor for which I am endlessly grateful.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Life happens for you, not to you. Small victories everyday will matter the most in the end. Make the most of every experience, big or small.
What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career?
Do not doubt yourself. A lot of times it takes one experience to realize that you are much farther along than you realize. Give yourself credit, try your best, and do not hesitate to put yourself out there.