KOKOMO, Ind. — The road to medical school is not an easy one.
It’s especially difficult when you have few role models to follow.
“I grew up never seeing anyone who looked like me in those spaces,” said Jourdyn Terrell, an Indiana University Kokomo junior, whose goal is to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
“When you’re trying to navigate through that and climb that mountain to where you want to be, it’s harder for people who haven’t experienced it to understand and help. It truly does matter.”
Terrell gained a mentor who is, like herself, a minority woman, when she was selected for the I CAN PERSIST STEM Initiative, based at IU Bloomington. She’s the only IU regional campus student selected for the 2022-2023 school year.
“They take minority students and connect us to other women of color who are in the field, or working at our universities, to help us make connections to talk to people in the fields we are pursuing,” she said.
She’s paired with Da’Ja’ Askew, a Ph.D. student at IU Bloomington, who can answer questions, direct her to resources, and sometimes just listen when Terrell needs to vent.
“She’s been a huge support to me so far in letting me know my goals are doable,” said Terrell, from Noblesville. “There are times I feel like I’m crashing, but she gives me the tools to work smarter, not harder.”
Terrell, a health sciences major with a minor in biochemistry, said it means a lot to her to be in a space among other women from minority backgrounds.
“Having this connection with other women who have gone through that, and can say, ‘I dealt with similar issues, and this is how I navigated through it,’ is encouraging,” she said. “ It shows you that you aren’t alone.”
In addition to working with her mentor, she participates in professional development opportunities including resume assistance, team building, and meeting with guest speakers. Leaders also check in on each participant’s mental health monthly. These checks help her manage the stress of her challenging academic load, in addition to working full time as a pharmacy technician.
Terrell is considering a career in general medicine, to focus on wellness and nutrition.
“It’s amazing to me that a lot of people’s doctors will refer them to a nutritionist, or a dietician,” she said. “That’s information you should be getting from your own doctor. The way we’re going about this is doing more harm than good. I want to keep people healthy and living their best lives, living to the fullest without pharmaceutical intervention.”
She also wants to set an example for potential future medical professionals from minority communities, and be a friendly practitioner for a community that lacks trust in the medical system.
“It’s hard to trust when you don’t see a face that looks like yours, and you’ve had traumatic experiences in that setting,” she said. “By going into that field, I can make a difference.
“I want to encourage more people of color that they can be in those careers,” Terrell said. “You have to have someone there to show them that example, so they can feed off it.”
The I CAN PERSIST STEM Initiative is a culturally relevant program designed to advance STEM persistence among undergraduate and graduate women from African American/Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian ethnic communities enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs at IU. It uses a holistic multigenerational mentorship framework to reaffirm students’ belonging to STEM and foster renewed commitment to careers in STEM fields.
Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.