The Perkins Perspective | Features | Spring 2012


Keep Going: MAPS and Pre-health Students

Keep Going: MAPS and Pre-health Students

By Victoria Gardner, Ed.D., Director, University of Washington MAPS


Grandfather says this: “In life there is sadness as well as joy, losing as well as winning, falling as well as standing, hunger as well as plenty, badness as well as goodness. I do not say this to make you despair, but to teach you reality. Life is a journey sometimes walked in light, sometimes in shadow.” – Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance by Joseph Marshall III

This quote is probably one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books, Keep Going by Joseph Marshall III. In this book, Marshall shares the stories of individuals facing great trials and adversity, and he shares his grandfather’s advice on how to handle difficult situations.


I love this book because it reminds me a lot of the challenges that premedical students go through, especially under-represented, low-income, disadvantaged, and marginalized students in large urban campuses such as the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University, or Seattle University.


It also reminds me that challenges, whether they are academic, personal, physical, social, financial, or spiritual, are a natural part of the world — and therefore something we all have learned to deal with on an individual or social level.


The Importance of a Core Group

Being a premed student is probably one of the loneliest and most anxiety-producing journeys at any college or university. From my experience, many students do not feel comfortable letting others know that becoming a physician is something to which they aspire. Perhaps it’s the insecurity of the application and admissions process, or the lack of finances, or that nasty impostor syndrome (i.e., I’m not good enough and someone is going to discover this and make fun of me) that might prevent someone from disclosing one’s inner most hopes and dreams. How dare you become a premed? You’re not smart enough! Oh, yes, we’ve heard those messages. You know the ones I mean.

So how do you keep from internalizing those messages? How do you figure things out? How do you keep going when everyone else says you can’t do it? Make use of a core group.


Having a core group of people around you who share your background, your stories, your experiences is so important to your success as a premed student. A group of like-minded students from different backgrounds can seize their own power and use their own collective voice to take charge of their learning as future health providers.

A Rich Legacy

MAPS is not just another premed organization. It’s connected by design to the oldest student organization in the country, the Student National Medical Association, which owes its rich legacy to the National Medical Association, a group that formed because African-American physicians were barred from joining the American Medical Association in its early years.

MAPS is a special organization borne out of history and necessity. And it continues to have a special place in supporting underrepresented, poor, marginalized students in health. An organization such as MAPS can provide support, mentoring, advocacy, and opportunities for service that help create a community of belonging and safety on a large impersonal college campus.


No doubt, MAPS can be a network of interconnected allies and colleagues who are forming the next group of change agents in society who are going to set out to improve the health of our communities in the future.


Editor's note: In 2008, SPU premed adviser Dr. Cindy Fitch encouraged me to start a chapter of The Minority Association of Premedical Students on our campus. Four years later, our first MAPS student has been admitted at the University of Washington Medical School. From the beginning, Victoria Gardner, Ph.D., has been a supportive collaborator — and our partnership demonstrates the power of bridge building as a tool for reconciliation and leadership training.


Victoria Gardner, Ed.D., director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, University of WashingtonVictoria Gardner, Ed.D., is the director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Washington, and the adviser of the University of Washington Minority Association of Premedical Students.




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