Kristian Black

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As a first-generation college student and an African American male from the deep South, Kristian was inspired by the need for more diversity in medicine.

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Undergraduate: Louisiana State University, 2015
Major: Biochemistry
Medical school: University of Michigan Medical School, 2019


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

I was always interested in the scientific process but not necessarily medicine. I thought I would be a documentarian for National Geographic for a long time.

What led to your interest in medicine?

I had a teacher in the 11th grade who assured me I had the potential to be a doctor. I was doing really well in her Biology II and Medical Terminology class and she couldn’t fathom why I had never given it much thought.

What inspired you?

I was inspired by the need for diversity in the medical community. I took it personally that people of color made up such a small percentage of providers not only in my community but nationwide.

Was there one person who stands above the others as your inspiration to go to medical school?

My mother. I witnessed her make miracles out of catastrophes when I was younger. I wanted to do something so my mom could sit back, and smile as she told her friends that her son is a doctor.

How did you prepare for the medical school application process?

I reached out to individuals who I knew personally who had successfully matriculated into medical school, got involved with medically related opportunities early, and did what was important to me.

Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT® exam?

Definitely. Like many individuals, I wasn’t the best standardized tester, and I didn’t know many people who had taken it before, so I didn’t have much insight on the process.

What is your top MCAT tip for applicants preparing to take the exam?

Take as many practice tests as you can. There’s a point when it’s less about the actual information and more about the process, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and learning the format of the exam.

Did you have any fears going into medical school?

Definitely! The few friends I had who matriculated into medical school constantly talked about how much work it was. Though I was more worried about not fitting in.

How did you prepare for medical school before your first day?

I listened to my favorite songs that got me amped up. Then I looked in the mirror and spoke aloud all the things that had got me to that point, then I said all the characteristics that would take me even further.

What made your medical school the right fit for you?

The family vibe. Michigan is very family-oriented and seemed low stress from the beginning.

What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for medical school?

I needed a lot of financial aid to convince me to choose a more expensive school. I ended up with loans, a scholarship, and grants.

What memory stands out the most from your first day of medical school?

The anxiety I experienced as I looked around and noted I was in a room full of top performers.

What was your first year of medical school like?

I would describe it as a very hilly mountain. Uphill the entire time, but there were rifts and valleys that made the journey interesting.

Did you have to change any of your study habits?

Constantly! I’m still changing them. I didn’t have the best study habits in undergrad, and I was reluctant to change in the beginning, but I soon found out that adaptation is necessary as your environment continues to change around you.

Please describe your participation in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.

I’ve been extremely involved in the admissions process because I love serving as an example that anyone can do it. I’ve also been quite fond of the theatrical extracurricular activities.

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?

Thoughts of the future. Nothing helps me get through the day like knowing that there is a weekend coming up, but more importantly the match day party in my fourth year when I’ll find out where I’ve matched for residency.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?

I have two methods. Sometimes I work really hard during the week and enjoy the weekend, or I enjoy each day a little more and work throughout the weekend.

What obstacles did you overcome in your medical school journey?

It was hard for me not being at the very top of my class anymore. I had to learn to adjust to the new environment and work hard to establish myself again. Being away from southern culture was a big thing for me too. I missed the weather, food, personalities, but I’ve learned to lean on my memories and savor the times when I go home!

What makes your story unique?

As a first generation college student, I was not — and I’m still not — familiar with the higher education process. I’m learning every day, so I can better instruct other first-generation students.

What did you enjoy most about medical school?

Shadowing in the OR and going to conferences.

What surprised you the most about medical school?

The amount of information you’re expected to grasp and the amount of information that you actually do grasp though you don’t think you do at first.

Are you a member of a unique demographic? If so, please describe how that shaped your medical school experience.

I’m first-generation, and an African American male from the deep South. It has constantly been a reminder to keep pushing forward because we are rare in medicine.

What specialties are your current top choices?

My top specialty choices currently are Dermatology, Orthopedic Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Otolaryngology. I’ve found out that I really like procedural medicine. I’ve always appreciated solving tangible problems and fast results that I can see.

What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?

Make sure it’s what you want to do by doing research and talking to individuals in the field early on.  It would be a shame to wake up one day and realize that your real dreams haven’t been fulfilled.

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

There is beauty in the struggle. It’s an archaic remnant of the evolution of life. Embrace it and keep moving forward …. It will never get easier but you will get stronger.

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