Lynne Holden, MD
Undergraduate: Howard University, 1987
Medical school: Temple University School of Medicine, 1991
Residency: Jacobi-Montefiore Medical Center
Specialty: Emergency Medicine
Dr. Lynne Holden is the co-founder and President of Mentoring in Medicine, Inc.® (MIM). MIM is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and equipping students to become health care professionals through academic enrichment, leadership development, civic engagement and mentoring. Through conferences, hip-hop plays, school-based and virtual programs, MIM has reached nearly 15,000 students from elementary school through medical school.
MIM has been featured in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, Lifetime TV and CNN. Dr. Holden has been named a 2007 Maybelline NY-Essence Empowerment through Education Awardee, a 2009 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader, a 2010 Root 100 Leader and a 2010 Lifetime TV Remarkable Woman. You can find out more about MIM at www.medicalmentor.org
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Since the age of six years old, I have wanted to be a physician.
What led to your interest in medicine?
Watching a medical program in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s called "Marcus Welby, M.D." ignited my interest in medicine. The show was idealistic, but the hope, compassion and optimism that Dr. Welby portrayed was electrifying! It attracted me to the idea of pursuing medicine at the age of six.
Who or what inspired you?
I met people along the way who encouraged me. No one actually understood what I wanted to do—the impact that I wanted to make—except Dr. Muriel Petioni. In Dr. Petioni, I envisioned my older self. Dr. Petioni graduated as the only woman in her 1937 Howard University Medical School class. She was a family practice doctor and community advocate known as "the Mother of Medicine" in Harlem.
We first met when I spent my 6th grade spring break shadowing her. I learned about all the other activities that she was involved besides her daily practice such as running a mentoring program for women, fundraising for Harlem Hospital, and being active in her sorority. Over the years, she taught me how to juggle the family, community and work responsibilities.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
Beginning in high school, I used my summers to gain valuable experience by attending an enrichment program to learn various aspects of the medical field and to network with colleagues. During the summer of 11th grade, I attended a program at Carnegie-Mellon University for science and engineering.
When I got to college, I joined every premedical club and attended as many seminars and conferences as possible to find out about medical school. After my freshman year, I attended a summer program at Harvard University. Then, after my sophomore year, I attended the MedREP program at Tulane University and after senior year, I attended the Travelers’ Program at Weill-Cornell Medical College.
Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT exam?
I was petrified! I signed up for a prep course the first time, but I did not practice questions because I needed to “read everything.” The second time around, I retook the prep course and did every question and exercise possible.
Did you need financial aid to pay for medical school?
I financed my education solely through loans.
What was your first year of medical school like?
The first year of medical school was nothing like I have ever experienced. The amount of material that had to be mastered was tremendous. I had to learn how to manage my time in addition to other study strategies. I also had to learn that I could not be the social butterfly of the class!
What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?
Two key pieces of general advice are: students should work on their preparation and presentation.
Preparation for medical school can be very intensive. You need to learn and practice good time management skills. Naturally, you must do your best in your coursework. Learn and utilize study strategies that guarantee success for you and cultivate a love of learning.
I would also advise applicants to research the field of medicine carefully. Try to gain as much information as possible. Get to know trusted Web resources that describe the educational path such as www.aamc.org. Join premed clubs such as the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), Minority Association of Prehealth Students (MAPS), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). Do not be afraid to speak to as many physicians as possible. Attend networking events and follow-up with people you meet. Again, follow-up is so important. You never know what doors may open as a result of building connections.
Your presentation is just as important. You can have the best preparation, but your attire, body language, cyber presence, written and verbal communication can undermine your hard work. Pay close attention to all of these aspects—the decision-makers certainly are! For example, please monitor carefully the comments and pictures that you post on the Internet. Make sure that everything is professional! You never know who is watching.
Do you have additional information or thoughts to share that would be helpful to prospective students?
You really have to love to learn and be a lifelong learner in medicine. You must be aware of the new diseases, new medications, and new medical equipment, for example, in order to best serve your patients.
Also, I recommend that prospective students learn to manage their emotions. Situations may arise with colleagues or patients in which you must practice the utmost restraint. I highly recommend an acting class to learn how to not wear your emotions on your sleeve.
Many students ask how I am able to juggle family and work. Just a few tips are as follows: Learn to manage your time. Take care of yourself. Do not let anyone steal your joy. Learn to say “no” tactfully to activities that will not advance your career or do not interest you. Do not burn any bridges to success. Build a large support network and show those people your appreciation often. Try really hard not to miss any of your child’s important dates (recitals, plays, graduations, first days at school, parent teacher meetings, etc.)
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?
I would tell medical students to enjoy medical school. It sounds impossible, but learn about the science of medicine and the humanism of medicine. Never forget the plight of your patients. Treat them as you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Simple things like an appropriate smile, calling the patient by their proper name (Mr. or Mrs./Ms.) and asking if they have any questions go a long way. Also, listen to what your patients are saying. So much valuable information can be gained by listening empathetically and asking appropriate follow-up questions. Remember that you are embarking on a journey of service to others.
What advice would you give to medical students interested in pursuing a career track similar to yours?
Emergency medicine is a very fast-paced and demanding field requiring a broad knowledge base. Life-and-death decisions are made in a second under extremely stressful conditions. I would advise careful self-reflection before choosing this particular specialty. You must love to interact with people and not get frustrated easily. It is extremely helpful to have mastered relaxation techniques. Have a hobby or two to help relieve stress during times outside of work.
I would also advise early exposure to emergency medicine during college through volunteering and shadowing and during medical school through early rotations, extra hours shadowing and joining an emergency medicine club. It is an extremely satisfying specialty that is mind-stimulating, physically intense, and fun!