Dominque Tucker's Journey: Finding Resilience Through Lived Experience

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"The application cycle can be disillusioning and not without challenges, not unlike medicine, but remember to be ambitious, surround yourself with good people, work hard and enjoy the moment; you really can do anything."

Anatomy of an Applicant, Dominique T, Core Competencies
Dominique Tucker

Medical School: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Expected Graduation Year: Class of 2023
College & Major: Wake Forest University, Biology, 2018

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  • Born in Hampton Roads, Dominique experienced homelessness as a toddler. His parents struggled to pay bills and worked numerous jobs during his early childhood.
  • At 14, after his mother’s knee surgery, Dominique decided on a career in medicine when he realized how his socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and cultural differences impeded his family’s access to health care.
  • While at Wake Forest University, Dominique participated in the Wake Forest University Center for Global Programs and Studies work-study program, volunteered for Imprints Cares and incorporated staff and patient interviews into his coursework, and conducted research in Peru, where he developed strong relationships with his supervisors and professors. Dominique also studied abroad formally for a semester in Australia.

MCAT® Score/GPA/Coursework

Always interested in challenging himself, Dominique took on difficult coursework as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University. Although he initially earned lower grades than expected and had difficulty with some of his science coursework, over time, he was able to demonstrate continuous academic progress. His GPA steadily improved throughout his undergraduate program.

“When we first started meeting, Dominique's academic record was not strong,” said Carole Gibson, PhD, Dominique’s prehealth advisor and Director of Health Professions Advising at Wake Forest University. “But he made a plan to retake a semester of organic chemistry that he had not excelled in, and he began to focus more on his coursework.” Not only did he earn an A after retaking Organic Chemistry, but he also raised his GPA and demonstrated his singular commitment to academic success.

“Dominique’s dedication to his studies pushed him to hit his stride academically by the time he reached his most difficult courses as a college senior. He also worked while going to school, showcasing his ability to seamlessly multitask,” said Christian Essman, Senior Admissions Officer at CWRUSOM. (Mr. Essman hosts “All Access: Med School Admissions,” a podcast series to give potential applicants an insider’s perspective into the medical school admissions world. The series is free and open to the public.)

Although academics are a significant component of the total application, Mr. Essman also stressed the importance of considering an applicant’s comprehensive experience in relation to their grades. He shared that during the screening process, “the team made multiple comments as to Dominique's pathway to medicine and some of the obstacles he had to overcome to get where he is today — his distance traveled.”


Born in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Dominique is no stranger to domestic hardship. At two, he experienced homelessness when his parents were unable to find sufficient-enough work opportunities. Dominque was often left at a godparent’s home while his parents took turns working round-the-clock hours at an amusement park. It took months of careful saving, but Dominique’s parents were able to establish stable housing and acquire entry-level positions in the federal government at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia.

When asked about his childhood experiences, Dominique reflected that his parents’ employment with the federal government provided substantial benefits, including medical, dental, and vision insurance. “My parents struggled to pay bills and worked multiple jobs, but these benefits meant doctors’ visits were more affordable and routine.”

As a teenager, Dominique found that his families’ socioeconomic status often made it difficult for his family to access medical care. He shared a pivotal memory when he accompanied his mother for a blood test. She was told she’d need to pay the balance from a recent surgery if she wanted to be seen. To ensure she would be able to have the test done, he paid the balance from the surgery with money earned from a part-time job. “All I could think about as my mother stood frozen to the spot in anguish, was how much she had sacrificed when my siblings and I were younger,” said Dominque. “She enrolled in college at 40 while holding a full-time position as an IT Director at a regional hospital and a part-time position at Target. She pulled out all the stops to provide for us by purchasing monthly bus passes to avoid high-priced gasoline, using our church’s food pantry ministry, and living on five hours of sleep a night.”

Dominique’s life experiences helped narrow his focus when it came to what to study in college. He shared, “I found that conversations in social sciences shed light on widespread social inequalities, and with my background, I felt a need and a want to advocate for these communities. Ultimately, I found my niche in the Anthropology department. I am inspired to pursue medicine to help patients get to the bottom of their physical pathology alongside the other circumstantial factors that affect their quality of life.”

Dominique also pursued extracurricular experiences, including working in a research lab, volunteering for Imprints Cares, a non-profit that supports early head-start and other childcare education initiatives in Forsyth County, NC, working in health care administration, and participating in the Summer Health Professions Education Program. Dominique volunteered at multiple fundraising and donation events for Imprints Cares after conducting a series of interviews with their staff and patients for an Anthropology course at Wake Forest University. Through these experiences, he demonstrated service orientation, scientific curiosity, dependability, adaptability, and involvement in the medical community.

Personal Statement

Anatomy of an Applicant, Dominique T, Core Competencies
Dominique golfs with friends from his medical school class

In his personal statement, Dominique highlighted how poverty and discrimination were major obstacles limiting opportunities for his family. Through navigating these experiences, he learned to cultivate an inclusive environment and position himself as an advocate for minority communities.

“I discussed the intersectionality between the United States’ cultural heterogeneity and its requisite diverse workforce representation in promoting equitable healthcare systems. Inclusiveness and diversity ensure an environment that will practice culturally competent care. Embracing and celebrating workplace diversity will mitigate health disparities in our local and national communities.”

Dominique also discussed how embracing and celebrating workplace diversity would mitigate health disparities throughout local and national communities. He further shared how studying abroad in Peru and Australia informed his understanding of how health systems function.

“Diversity of thought amplifies progress by inspiring creativity and extending boundaries. My childhood struggles to elude poverty, coupled with my commitment to underserved communities and international experience, made me a unique applicant, which I discussed in my personal statement,” he said.

Dr. Gibson discussed how Dominique’s diverse life experiences made him an ideal applicant to medical school. “Dominique’s background made him very understanding of the challenges that others might face; from our advising discussions, I could tell that he has a true commitment to serving underserved populations.”

Mr. Essman explained how Dominique’s application and essay helped the admissions team understand his strength as an applicant and a potential medical student. “Dominique is a very good writer and was able to articulate his interests in medicine in an effective essay response. We learned about his family background, which has shaped who he is today, and the issues he dealt with that helped influence his decision to pursue a career in medicine.”

Letters of Evaluation

Dominique utilized multiple resources in soliciting letters of evaluation and preparing his application. Wake Forest had a health professions committee that was able to help him with crafting his cover letter. He elaborated, “For the four letters, I asked my research principal investigator — with whom I’d had a three-year working relationship — a physician I shadowed for a summer, my work-study supervisor during undergrad, and a professor I had studied under for multiple classes,” said Dominique.

He reflected, “I figured each person would add a unique perspective to strengthen my application. Each individual I asked was able to speak to either my ability to ask a question and be intellectually curious, my empathy for patients during clinical interactions, their willingness to see me as their provider, or my academic abilities.”


In order to prepare for his interview, Dominique researched the schools he was interested in and studied their websites to learn more about their respective curriculums and unique qualities.

“I tried to formulate a couple of questions about student life, the curriculum, and the environment, for example, and was ready to ask my interviewer(s) if I was unclear about something during interview day,” said Dominique. “I read over my application each time so that I knew what content the interviewer knew about me at the baseline. I also prepared my response in advance to common prompts like ‘tell me about yourself,’ ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ or ‘how would your friends describe you.’”

Based on his application and bolstered by his interview, Mr. Essman and his admissions team felt that Dominique would be a good fit for their entering class. “Dominique demonstrated a capability to teach, learn, and share information with his peers, ability to collaborate with others, and expressed a strong interest in pursuing research. He appeared to be a mature young adult with a great deal of self-discipline."

Dominique on Why He Chose Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Anatomy of an Applicant, Dominique T, Core Competencies
Dominique with friends on the CWRUSOM Health Education Campus

Dominique chose CWRUSOM because of its mission to train students to be physicians who are astute and aware of the policies that affect patients’ access to care. “CWRUSOM is uniquely positioned in America’s core and prepares its students for successful careers in medicine by providing opportunities to engage with medicine in various ways,” said Dominique.  

International education was also an essential factor in his decision-making. “The international programs offered at CWRUSOM help develop students into physicians who can innovate and inspire changes,” said Dominique. He added, “the clinical electives are exciting because they offer the chance to exercise classroom knowledge and skills on an international stage. I am given opportunities to manage complex or rare diseases, practice clinical skills, and operate in a different health care system. These experiences will continually impact and inform decisions for future physicians, myself included.”

In addition to international opportunities, CWRUSOM offers programs that expand the health care access of local communities, an area of study close to Dominique’s heart.

The medical school also encourages each student to formulate a research question and launch a scientific investigation through their MD Thesis Research Block. This prepares students for their residency, allows engagement with their potential field, and procures a mentor for their educational and professional development. Due to the University’s commitment to research, opportunities are available for students in their first year of medical school. “The University’s commitment to underserved communities, domestic and international, resonates with my ambitions and fuels my desire to learn,” said Dominique.

Why Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Chose Dominique

The CWRUSOM admissions committee chose Dominique because of his diverse life experiences and positive outlook. They were impressed by his maturity, self-awareness, and a willingness to serve and collaborate with others. They also put value in their applicants’ abilities to communicate and express themselves. “Our screening team places a lot of value on the quality of writing and reflectiveness in how an applicant composes their essays and extracurricular explanations,” said Mr. Essman. “Dominique made his story come to life; that helped us connect the dots and led him to initiate an application to medical school, and ultimately had a hand in his acceptance.”

Anatomy of an Applicant, Dominique T, Core Competencies
Dominique stands with his medical school housemates

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Highlighted Competencies

Note: This section helps to illustrate how multiple competencies can be demonstrated across many experiences, activities, and parts of your application.

Icon of a person with arm around another person Empathy and Compassion Empathy and Compassion Recognizes, understands, and acknowledges others’ experiences, feelings, perspectives, and reactions to situations; is sensitive to others’ needs and feelings; and demonstrates a desire to help others and alleviate others’ distress.

Took action to help family during time of need.

Icon of two hands holding a globe Service Orientation Service Orientation

Shows a commitment to something larger than oneself; demonstrates dedication to service and a commitment to making meaningful contributions that meet the needs of communities.

Volunteered for Imprints Cares.

Icon of a globe Cultural Awareness Cultural Awareness

Appreciates how historical, sociocultural, political, and economic factors affect others’ interactions, behaviors, and well-being; values diversity; and demonstrates a desire to learn about different cultures, beliefs, and values.

Conducted interviews as part of anthropology coursework; experienced growing up in a family that had difficulty getting access to health care; expressed desire to understand how certain factors affect patients’ quality of life and can create health disparities; reflected on how studying abroad in Peru and Australia informed his understanding of how health systems function.

Icon of people in front of a globe Cultural Humility Cultural Humility

Seeks out and engages diverse and divergent perspectives with a desire to understand and willingness to adjust one’s mindset; understands a situation or idea from alternative viewpoints; reflects on one’s values, beliefs, and identities and how they may affect others; reflects on and addresses bias in oneself and others; and fosters a supportive environment that values inclusivity.

Reflected on how his childhood experiences helped him understand challenges others might face.

Icon of a person climbing stairs Resilience and Adaptability Resilience and Adaptability Perseveres in challenging, stressful, or ambiguous environments or situations by adjusting behavior or approach in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles, and recognizes and seeks help and support when needed; recovers from and reflects on setbacks; and balances personal well-being with responsibilities.

Adjusted to difficult life experiences and moved forward to achieve his goals; retook coursework and working on improving academic record.

Icon of a person with a laptop under checkboxes Reliability and Dependability Reliability and Dependability

Demonstrates accountability for performance and responsibilities to self and others; prioritizes and fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; and understands consequences of not fulfilling one’s responsibilities to self and others.

Worked part time while taking classes.

Icon of beakers Scientific Inquiry Scientific Inquiry

Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems, and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.

Academic coursework, research assistant experience.

Icon of a notebook and pencil Written Communication Written Communication

Effectively conveys information to others by using written words and sentences.

Personal statement, writing related to research assignments.

Icon of lightbulb and gear Critical Thinking Critical Thinking

Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Professional experience, coursework.

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Strongest Competencies

The student self-identified the following competencies as the strongest:

  • Icon of lightbulb and gear
  • Icon of a person with a laptop under checkboxes
  • Icon of two hands shaking in front of a heart
Dominique's Tips
  • "Surround yourself with great mentors."
  • "Get in the clinic and volunteer."
  • "Keep an open mind for your future."
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