Making The Most of Community College as an Immigrant

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

PMY 502: Making The Most of Community College as an Immigrant

Session 502

Tyra joins us today to talk about how she has made the most of her time – in the states and in community college – networking and making the process easier for all.

For more podcast resources to help you with your medical school journey and beyond, check out Meded Media.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[00:55] The MCAT Minute

The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.

Go to if you are taking the MCAT in 2023 and planning to start medical school in 2024 or 2025. Blueprint MCAT is giving away a $20,000 scholarship to go towards your medical school tuition. No purchase is necessary. This is running through the end of October 2022.

[01:50] Tyra’s Interest in Becoming a Physician

Tyra says she has always loved human anatomy and the body structure worked. She recalls being in a karate competition and a competitor’s toe broke so bad that it was hanging off. And she grew very curious about how it could be fixed.

Tyra grew up in South Africa, and for a while, she thought medicine wasn’t something she could actually do.

Had she gone to medical school in Africa, she would have had to learn Africa’s first language since most of the population doesn’t speak English. In that case, she would have to take a couple of years off and learn a language before even applying to medical school.

Tyra had the opportunity to win the green card lottery and come to the States to start her journey.

[04:12] Seeking Out Resources

Tyra started finding resources from her advisors at her community college but they didn’t have much that they were able to offer and they advised her to look online.

She reckons spending 500 hours of research in the first month she was in college. She didn’t even know what a GPA was. She had a difficult time trying to support herself through undergrad and navigate her way through getting into medical school.

She saw how so many sites were talking against going to a community college and it was looked down upon. But she thought community college was not going to affect her journey at all. It affected her headspace for a little bit, but she just had to push it all aside.

[06:30] The Power of Intentionality

Tyra was very intentional with everything she was doing. Being an athlete in high school, she always had to be very organized. She always had to have a plan set out to accomplish goals. She was very goal-oriented.

She was also very passionate about making this happen, especially since her parents have come to the states for her to go to medical school. It’s an opportunity that the majority of students in South Africa don’t have. So she was determined to make things work.

She quickly realized that her goal shouldn’t be to work her best to get into medical school, but to figure out whether she loves the field. And whether she’s going to be good in the field and be able to do the things she wants to do for the healthcare world and education.

And so, she started to make sure that her classes were lining up with not only the prereqs but stuff she actually enjoys and loves. She started to line up what work she needed to do with tools that are going to help her in her career long-term. She is very passion-driven. And if something is not exciting to her, then she just can’t do it, Tyra explains.

For her, why leave four years open to a lot of wasted hard time when you could be doing stuff you really want to get out of bed in the morning for?

'A lot of students are only trying to tick off the boxes, and it's just not worth doing it that way.”Click To Tweet

[08:52] What Drives Her Every Day

Tyra is very clear about her vision for what she should do for the rest of her life. She wants to be a world-changer and she wants to change the game.

Many people work towards that goal of getting the MD/DO or being an attending physician and think that’s the finish line for them. And you can tell they’re not excited to wake up each day to go study or do the clinical experience, shadowing, and all of that. Because the only thing that they consider success is the goal of being an attending physician. And Tyra sounds like she’s waking up every day driven by her goal.

'Being able to practice as a physician is not the end, medicine is so multifaceted. Physicians can do so much more than practice medicine.'Click To Tweet

Tyra wants to be a pillar of the community and her career of being a physician helps her achieve those goals. This is her overall mindset.

[10:55] What Tyra Did to Make a Change

Tyra is now at a community college now and still has a few years to go before starting medical school. She mentioned a lack of advising, specifically for the premed world at her community college. And instead of sitting on the sidelines and whining, Tyra actually went out to change things around.

Tyra reveals she was at a place where she was overwhelmed with the information and she got scared. She knew she had to do something to help herself and help other people not feel the same.

Getting Premed Advising Training

They did a research survey and developed a questionnaire just talking about the application cycle and how confident they feel. They wanted to test out the students’ competency levels in things. And they got some sad results.

Students were not confident about their applications, but they were highly committed to going to medical school according to the survey. 

The research didn’t stop there. She made a proposal to the University of South Florida and requested for someone to come to their school and train their advisors on premed advising. She also had to get an advisor at their school to do it without an increase in pay or anything like that. So it was building that connection. Both of them agreed, they took it to their Dean and it got approved.

Expanding Their Reach

Then it went on to being able to present across the country. They also started a prehealth society, at their community college and started to develop modules for students to learn and skills needed to be prehealth students.

They have now taken the research nationally, where they’re going to do a survey to identify where students are struggling. Then with the research project, comes a QI they have to do where they’re either hosting a workshop, building a document that has resources on it, or getting an adviser trained at their college.

[15:00] How to Replicate What Tyra Has Done

Tyra recommends that the first step is to do your research. Understand what the problem is and what kind of question you’re hoping to solve.

Make sure you have all the information because people are going to interrogate you as you go along this process. They want to see if you’re only doing this just for something to put on your CV or if you truly know it. And because Tyra knew everything, people took her seriously.

'Credibility is going to get you way further in any kind of project than just passion.'Click To Tweet

When she first proposed this research, Tyra couldn’t ask one question because she had to ask a million questions to try to get an answer. A lot of researchers told her that wouldn’t work. But she pushed through because her intention was to get people talking and understanding the fact that there’s research to be done. Regardless of the outcome, you’re still making a difference.

[18:00] How to Get Other Students to Get on Board

Tyra explains there are going to be some students who are driven to do the project because they want to put it on their CV. But there are going to be students who are part of the LGBTQ population who are saying they’re an underrepresented group in medicine. And they really want to figure out how they can help those students. There are African-American students that are going to want to help.

In other words, you need to be finding people’s passions and showing them how they can help not only themselves but other individuals in this. And if a student is doing it for the wrong reason, they’re not going to bother doing it anyway.

'Finding what drives them and being able to show them how this could impact them and their goals helps.'Click To Tweet

[19:40] How to Make Those Connections with Medical Schools

A lot of the big universities allow community college students to see some of their advisors. Normally, it’s like if the student is going to be a transfer student to their school, or where the school is a partner. But students just don’t know that because they don’t advertise it much.

As for Tyra, she reached out by email to the medical school’s Office of Diversity and Enrichment. She started off by asking if anyone would take her for an advising session. And she got a response from them after two to three months. It’s just about asking people and there are people willing to help you.

'You just have to be able to ask, and if they say no, move on to the next. But there are good people out there who want to help.'Click To Tweet

[23:48] Where She’s Heading Moving Forward

Tyra wants to keep doing the work and identifying how they can help underrepresented students in the medical school application cycle. She wants to keep doing advocacy and be able to talk about the hot issues that medicine is facing right now.

She wants to keep learning from multiple different institutes and organizations so she can be in a position where she can turn around and help students understand things.

[25:02] Words of Wisdom

Tyra’s advice is don’t do anything that doesn’t excite you to get up in the morning. There are going to be mornings and days as a premed where it is really difficult. You are really hard on yourself. You have a chemistry exam coming up, and you haven’t studied, but you need to do or do something. Find what’s worth it.

Find what is going to be something that lights your soul up enough to help you make it through this day without all the stress of premed collapsing you. 

Finally, find people. Find a mentor. Find a professor. Find a friend who shares that passion because they will keep your fire lit, regardless of whether you’re having a hard time or not.


Meded Media

Blueprint MCAT