Marius I. Chukwurah
Major: Biological Sciences, B.S
Medical school: Howard University College of Medicine, 2018
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to be growing up. I was very open minded and found myself exploring a wide array of interests.
What led to your interest in medicine?
My mother being a nurse and my father having an interest in medicine made my interest in the field almost innate. Growing up, my parents always told me that one day I would become a doctor and find the cure for cancer.
What experiences did you have that confirmed medicine was the right career for you?
I was enrolled in the Allied Health Magnet Program at Eastern Technical High School in Essex, MD. During my four years in this program, my education was concentrated in the medical science field through courses such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, calculus, biology, and Latin. The most influential people in my development as an aspiring physician at that point of my life were Ms. Dever, who was my Latin teacher of 3 years, and Ms. Magladry and Mr. Whittaker, who were my Allied Health program coordinators. They would assure me that I was capable of making my dream career a reality. I still remember reading a book that Ms. Dever gave me to serve as a guide to navigating through undergrad in a manner that would make me a competitive applicant for medical school. Lastly, I had the opportunity to shadow a number of physicians over the span of my high school and college career. Being in the presence of and witnessing the demands of the daily life of a physician was the best possible insight with which I was blessed to confirm that medicine was right for me.
Who or what inspired you?
Firstly, I have always been inspired by my parents. They were both immigrants to this country from Nigeria and had to have great diligence and determination to make it to their successful positions in life now. I hope to be at least half as successful as them one day in my career. I was also inspired by Dr. Ben Carson when we were younger. After reading about the great deal of adversity that he faced as a child, and the fact that he was still able to persevere, develop a strong intrinsic motivation to succeed, and become one of the most respected neurosurgeons in the world, I was inspired and determined to make my own mark in the medical field. I hope to become a physician that is just as a compassionate and God-fearing as Dr. Carson.
What made you decide to apply to medical school?
Once receiving an acceptance to UMBC in the spring of 2010 to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology, I knew that I would work toward the goal of applying to medical school. This was facilitated by being enrolled in the pre-med pathway that the school offered.
What is your top MCAT tip for applicants preparing to take the exam?
Give it your all and stay committed to the preparation for the exam so that you do well and only have to take it once. You can be a star in the classroom, have the most research experience under your belt, and be the most active member in your community, but your MCAT score is still an important part of the application portfolio. It is used by medical schools as a predictor of how you’ll do during the first few years of medical school, so it will be important to do reasonably well on the exam. Give it your all and stay focused.
Did you have any fears going into medical school?
I can’t say I didn’t have any fears or angst whatsoever coming into medical school. However, the amount of bliss, gratefulness, and enthusiasm that I had for receiving the opportunity to even embark on the journey far outweighed any fears I may have had.
How did you prepare for medical school before your first day?
Before going to medical school, I prepared by living my life to the fullest extent possible. I traveled, spent a lot of time with friends and family, socialized, and relaxed. My older cousin, who was also in medical school at the time, advised me that my education would become my biggest commitment once starting and that I would not have the amount of free time that I previously had, so to take the time while I had it.
What made your medical school the right fit for you?
I knew HUCM was the right place for me after my interviewed there. The atmosphere was extremely welcoming and the staff and students there emphasized and embodied a family-like atmosphere. Once I felt the sincerity there, I knew the school was where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. I also was very drawn to the ideals of the historically-black colleges and universities. I wanted to experience the culture of such an institution first-hand, especially since I had attended predominantly white institutions all of my life.
What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for medical school?
My medical school education is being funded by both federal and institution loans.
What was your first year of medical school like?
My first year of medical school was an emotional rollercoaster. I came in the first semester very strong, doing well in all of my courses while still maintaining a fair balance between my school and personal life. Once we started Neuroanatomy in the second semester, I experienced one of my greatest lows in medical school. I failed my first exam ever, and I begin to doubt that I would be able to make it through the rest of the course, let alone medical school. What made the matter even more discouraging was that I felt that I studied and prepared to the best of my ability, and all the hours working seemed to be in vain. However, I remained resilient, put in the work, and had one of the largest turnarounds in my academic career by the end of my first year. This humbling year of my life helped me realize that medical school is a marathon and not a sprint. It is more about pacing yourself and not allowing the little bumps in the road to deter you from the main goal waiting at the finish line.
Did you have to change any of your study habits?
Yes, for sure. I was a good student in undergrad, but the amount of time I used to allocate towards my studies were nowhere near what I must do now. Medical school presents an accelerated amount of information in a small window of time. Now, I dedicate at least 8-10 hours of studying a day, taking off one day occasionally post-exams. It was definitely a big change for me, but because I love the material that I am learning and have a deep appreciation for having the opportunity to be in this position, I consider the burden of work to be a blessing. I believe that medicine and the lives of people that I will impact through healthcare is the cross that God has given me to bear. My passion for science has made bearing this cross, along with all the work and responsibility that come with it that much easier.
Please describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.
As a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., I am still very active in the community, providing mentorship to young children of all creeds through a variety of initiatives. Currently at HUCM, I am involved in the Student National Medical Association as a Region VI executive board member. I’m also on the executive board for the PM&R Interest Group. In addition to these organizations, I am a member of the admissions committee at HUCM. I have volunteered at Freedman’s Clinic, a free student-run and attending-supervised clinic; the AAMC Mount Vernon Triangle Health Fair; and have volunteered my time to mentoring both undergraduate students and elementary school students through SNMA initiatives of the chapter at HUCM. During the summer of 2015, I participated in the National Medical Fellowships Primary Care Leadership Program in Rochester, NY. The program allowed me to conduct clinical research on the language barriers present in the field of refugee healthcare. After I complete my board examination in the summer of 2016, I hope to continue my research.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
I manage my stress by making time to do the things I love. This includes playing the piano, working out and watching a good movie every now and then. I definitely don’t have the time to devote to them as often as I’d like, but I try to get them in whenever I can.
What specialties are your current top choices?
I am currently highly interested in rheumatology and physical medicine and rehabilitation. Growing up, I was diagnosed with a minor degree of scoliosis. However minor it was, it was enough to generate discomfort as I preformed certain physical activities. My doctor helped me stabilize my condition, and since then I have developed a deep interest in the inter-workings of the musculoskeletal system. I hope to one day be able to stabilize the physical ailments of others just as my doctor did for me.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
Be impressive inside AND outside of the classroom. Most applicants have good GPAs and MCAT scores. That’s a necessity. However, what makes you stand out is your experiences. Whether it be the service you do in the community, hobbies you may enjoy such as dancing or art, or organizations with which you are involved, you should put your heart and passion into whatever those may be. This will allow the admissions committee to see that the person they are trying to decide on is a well-rounded human being with integrity. In addition to this, make sure you hold steady the reason behind your desire to pursue a career in medicine and ensure that it is one of an intrinsic nature. This will help pick you up and maintain your motivation when you encounter speed bumps on along the journey.
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 them the process of applying to med school is one that requires a vast amount of patience and prayer. Because of the highly competitive nature of the process, there will be times of anxiety and doubt. Therefore, it is also one that requires faith in the ideal that if it is meant to be, it will be.