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Hannah Bowman: A long educational path to medical school

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Hannah Bowman

This interview is part of a series conducted by the department called, “UK Chemistry Alumni: Where Are They Now?” This interview was coordinated by Dr. Arthur Cammers.

Arthur Cammers: Hannah, you are psyched to go to Med School. What can you tell me about your application process? What were the factors in deciding to which schools to apply? What was your strategy?

Hannah Bowman: Yes, I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity. During my application cycle, I was working full time as a registered nurse and was a bit of a late applicant. However, when selecting schools to send secondaries to, I only sent them to schools that I knew were high on my priorities list. My priorities included public health involvement, location, resources, student experiences opportunities, etc. If I felt as if a school had a good balance of my priorities or there was something unique that I thought would help me grow as a person and future physician, those were the schools I completed applications for. However, if I had to do the application process all over again, I would definitely have applied much earlier in the cycle and found a way to minimize my other responsibilities at that time.

Arthur Cammers: Quite a while ago I told you that if medicine interests you, then go to school to study medicine. You doubted you had the right stuff. What changed your mind? What has been your path to medical school to date?

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Hannah Bowman

Hannah Bowman: Yes, for a long time, I felt a sense of inferiority when comparing myself to my peers that were pursuing the same goals. As a first-generation college student, I felt like I was always missing pieces of a puzzle that others had already completed. It took many years for me to see what I was capable of, but one thing I had even through times self-doubt was tenacity and giving my best at each new step. My path to medicine is what changed my mind. When someone asks me "why medicine?", I don't have a grandiose epiphany to speak of, but rather, a series of events that illuminated my core values, interests, and passions being encompassed by a career as a physician. To give a few examples, how excited I was about learning biochemistry and how epigenetics bridges the interplay of social determinants of health and DNA expression to affect a person's health from the time they are a neonate all the way into their elder years. Also, I've had the opportunity to mentor students in a research and a clinical setting, and I absolutely loved sharing my passion for community health and patient care with them, which facilitated improvement in their own skills. Lastly, my experiences caring for patients in a clinical setting bring me so much joy as I advocate for and tend to patients' physical, emotional, and mental health. As a physician, I will be able to fill many roles, such as lifelong learner, teacher, scientist, and advocate. Having the opportunity to fill these roles and invest in those around me is truly an honor and gives me a strong sense of meaning and purpose.

Arthur Cammers: You've told me about what you believe to be humble beginnings. What was the reaction to what you were trying to do? Did people think you were just a little too ambitious? This is often a reaction to big ambition in young people.

Hannah Bowman: Yes, I don't think many people took me seriously at first, which I don't necessarily take as a personal slight. From where I started, it can be a bit shocking, even to me sometimes, what I've been able to accomplish. I had to figure a lot of things out on my own to achieve higher education, but this is one of my greatest strengths now. There have been mixed reactions. Although most people closest to me have been supportive, there have been quite a few well-intentioned people who've tried to dissuade me from medicine, and some have also try to persuade me into other careers, such as nurse practitioner or CRNA, mostly by telling me of the financial benefits. Although these are wonderful careers, they did not align with my unique interests and goals enough for me to pursue them. I am a bit stubborn, so I usually give others' ideas fair consideration, but ultimately, I will make the best decisions for me based on a meticulous internal process of review and revision.

Arthur Cammers: Do you have an idea about what you will try to pursue as a career at Dartmouth Medical School? 

Hannah Bowman: That's a great question! One thing that I would love is to be involved in at Dartmouth is The Center for Health Equity. My interest in Geisel at Dartmouth was really piqued upon watching a TedTalk by Dr. Lisa Adams titled “Global Health Partnerships: Check Your Privilege at the Border”. Her words resonated deeply with me. She described herself, as a young physician, as being idealistic and full of passion, but finding later that even the best intentions are not immune to a devastating oversight. When she spoke about how the use of language such as “let”, “allow”, and “help” conveys a dynamic of superiority, it brought clarity to my aspirations for advocacy and promoting equity in my future career as a physician. As far as a specialty during residency and thereafter, I am very interested in interventional cardiology. I am a cardiac nurse now, so I care for many of these patients before and after their procedures, and I absolutely love it. However, I am keeping an open mind to what I may find my niche to be as a physician.

Arthur Cammers: You may have to think about this one for a bit, but do you have any advice for students wishing to go to med school who may be in their 3rd or 4th year at U. Kentucky? 

Hannah Bowman: As a nontraditional student taking premed classes during my nursing program, my experience was quite different from most premed students, but I think I do have some solid advice:

1.  Even on your hardest days, try to keep everything in perspective and don't ‘catastrophize.’ Being a bit of a recovering perfectionist myself, I understand that it is easy to fixate on a bad exam score or an opportunity that didn't work out. Resilience is truly one of the most invaluable qualities to have, and every single day gives you a new chance to reevaluate your approach, find a new strategy, and not take a failure personally. What has really helped me is telling myself “It’s all going to work out how it's supposed to," finding humor in curve balls life throws you, and enjoying where I am at in my journey because today is yesterday's future and the destination of happiness at a certain level of success is an illusion.

2. Manage your time wisely and take care of yourself! Definitely have fun and enjoy yourself, but if the people, places, and things you invest your time in on a weekly are not investing in your long-term goals or your overall wellness, I'd recommend really evaluating if those things are a net positive or net negative in your life.

3. Get involved with things you are passionate about and not just to check off a box. For example, I am very passionate about health equity, so I began a research internship with a mentor that invested in marginalized communities in Kentucky. It truly helped to shape me in my premed journey. Doing things that are productive but are also thing you love and are passionate about will help you stay motivated during an arduous journey.