Kendrick Williams

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After shadowing radiation oncologists, Kendrick decided to change careers to pursue medicine thanks to the support of his wife and daughter.

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Undergraduate: Xavier University of LA, 2010
Major: Physics
Medical school: University of Michigan Medical School, 2020


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a fire fighter because I wanted to help others when they were in need. As I got older however, I became fascinated with science and decided that I wanted to become a scientist.

What led to your interest in medicine?

Medicine was always something I considered in the back of my mind. I have always enjoyed working with people and helping as much as I can, and science has been a passion of mine for years. It wasn’t until I was working in the clinical setting with cancer patients while working on my master’s in medical physics that I decided to pursue medicine.

What experiences did you have that confirmed medicine was the right career for you?

While working on my master’s, I shadowed radiation oncologists throughout their patient encounters, from helping patients work through processing their diagnoses to completion of their treatment. It was inspiring to watch the physicians comfort patients in a time when they seemed to have lost all hope. Although I knew I would be a part of an important team if I decided to stay in the medical physics field, I enjoyed the human interaction and working with the patients that I experienced when shadowing the radiation oncologists.

Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?

I discouraged myself from applying to medical school. I was working in a stable, well-paying career and wondered if turning my wife’s and daughter’s lives upside down to pursue my dream would be worth achieving my goal. I was rapidly moving up my career path and applying to medical school meant giving up the possibility of moving forward in my career to pursue something completely different. In the end, my wife supported me completely and encouraged me to pursue my dream and has continued to support me throughout. I do not know if I would have applied to medical school without her encouragement.

How did you prepare for the medical school application process?

I hadn’t taken a course in a couple of years and did not have all the pre-reqs completed. I signed up for several online classes to complete my requirements. I bought a couple books to study for the MCAT. I also reviewed the materials online and researched as much as I could about the medical school application process.

Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT exam?

I took the MCAT before I had taken several of the prerequisite course for medical school so I was really concerned that the knowledge I had gained on my own would be inadequate. In order to prepare to take the exam, I bought a biochemistry book and two different MCAT prep books. In addition, I also used the online resource Khan academy to give a simple explanation of different topics. I would read one of the MCAT prep books in the morning before work before my wife and daughter woke up. I would read the biochemistry book during lunch at work. After my daughter and wife went to bed at night, I would either read the second MCAT prep book or watch a Khan Academy video. Each of the MCAT prep books came with a practice test. I took one of the practice tests about half way through studying and the other a couple of weeks before I scheduled the exam to help me focus my final few weeks of studying.

Did you have any fears going into medical school?

I was afraid I would not be prepared and that I would not be able to balance home life and school. Because I had been out of the academic setting for a few years and I was a nontraditional student, I feared that I would be out of loop.

What made your medical school the right fit for you?

The community. The University of Michigan Medical School felt like a small community comprised of diverse students from an array of backgrounds and life experiences. This made me feel less alienated as a nontraditional student.

What was your first year of medical school like?

My first year of medical school was the most stressful, exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience. There were a lot of twist and turns. My year began with both my family and my wife’s family in Louisiana losing their homes and most of their possessions in a flood about 5 minutes before my first test opened. I flew home several weekends to help them.

At the beginning of the year, I received a nonstop flow of information that at times seemed like a completely foreign language. Once some of the tension subsided at home and I got used to the flow of material, I started to enjoy it. The curriculum was divided into different sets of organ systems. Each organ sequence was taught in a fused manner where we learned both normal physiology and abnormal pathology. I liked how each of our sequences ended in a patient presentation of how it was to live with the conditions mentioned in the sequence. I also liked how as I learned each organ system, I also learned how to do that portion of physical exam. But the highlights of my first year were my patient interactions. I took part in a clinical reasoning elective that allowed us to work in the Emergency Department taking histories and doing physical exams on patients.

Did you have to change any of your study habits?

My study habits were constantly changing. For some sequences, it was very helpful to draw a flow chart of how things worked together. For others, it was better to create flashcards and go through them several times. For others, a classmate and I would quiz each other and talk through the material. I was always trying to find the most efficient way to learn all the information and be prepared for the quiz on Friday.

Please describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school.

In the beginning of the year I didn’t have much time for extra-curriculars. But during the second half of the year, I got more involved with admissions and taking a Clinical Reasoning elective. Also, over the summer I conducted biomedical research. Getting involved in these activities has helped me to meet more people and gain new knowledge.

What makes your story unique?

I am a nontraditional student that must balance medical school with having a family. My wife works in a different state and I would drop off my daughter at 8:00am to day care and pick her up at 3:00pm Monday through Wednesday and try to complete all of my studying by staying late on Thursday and Friday on campus.

What did you enjoy most about medical school?

The thing I enjoyed most was seeing patients. They served as a constant reminder of why I was going through medical school.

What surprised you the most about medical school?

How helpful and supportive my peers were. I expected there to be more competition between students, but the community was so welcoming.

If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?

Failure is inevitable, success is not. Failure only becomes permanent when you give up and you will only achieve success by persevering after failure.

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