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Exercise science student gets head-start on medical school
Exercise Science Junior Adassa Phillips conducts an experiment with physics lab partner Christabelle Ayensu-Asiedu.

Med school head start

Photo by Dante LaPenta

Exercise science student gets head-start on medical school

University of Delaware exercise science student Adassa Phillips was applying for research opportunities when she stumbled upon Thomas Jefferson University’s STEP-UP Program (Summer Training and Enrichment Program from Underrepresented Persons). It focuses on underrepresented students and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who have an eye on medical school.

With a cohort of only fifteen students, the intensive program is typically aimed towards college graduates and seniors; Phillips was admitted as a junior, the youngest in the program.

“I was very lucky to be accepted as a junior,” said Phillips. “It was great to get one step ahead and receive the first-hand knowledge that I needed to prepare myself for medical school and the application process.”

The program takes place at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College. With hours of classes, workshops, seminars, MCAT preparation and physician shadowing, an average day is nothing short of exhausting. A rigorous course load, however, was very familiar to this Blue Hen.

“The course levels at UD mentally prepared me for the strenuous work,” Phillips said. “I was so used to that; the background knowledge and experience from my [UD] classes definitely helped me through.

“When I shadowed, the doctors knew you were there to learn. They were engaged with the students — to help and challenge you. We were able to get involved with the patients and ask them questions ourselves.”

One of the most important aspects of the program was networking — not only with students, but also physicians. Phillips connected with a surgeon at Nemours/A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children on future shadowing opportunities.

In addition, the students involved in the program spoke with the university’s admissions board.

“We did mock interviews, which really helps them get to know us and remember us for the future when we apply,” Phillips said.

Phillips’s prowess caught the attention of program director Traci Trice, who also serves as the assistant dean of diversity and community programs at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

“While in our program, Adassa demonstrated a strong work ethic and provided thoughtful contributions in our workshops and group study hall sessions,” said Trice. “She has a great personality and worked well within the group dynamic.  She has the qualities and character traits that we look for in our medical students.”

Phillips hopes to become a surgeon, a notoriously fast-paced career. At UD, she races at full throttle in the classroom and through many extracurricular activities, including Lori’s Hands, Making Doctors and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

“I don’t like dull moments,” Phillips said. “It can be overwhelming going to meetings on top of my coursework, but I love always running around and being with people.”

Looking ahead, Phillips said she feels extremely prepared for her future studies and will take the MCAT in the spring of 2018. After medical school, Phillips plans to be an orthopedic surgeon, specifically in disadvantaged areas.

“I've always wanted to serve in underprivileged communities regardless of my career path due to the lack of overall support and healthcare options in those areas, specifically for African-American people,” Phillips said. “For black women, we need a seat at the table. We would be able to provide representation for African-American patients so that they can relate and trust their physician to provide them with the necessary resources to pursue a healthy life.”


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