Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight

Jennifer Sidey - Fall 2012 Cohort


What was your academic and career background prior to this program?

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 2007. I was a long term substitute and preschool teacher until my first daughter was born. Then I was a stay at home mother for three years before coming back to school to get my medical degree.

What lead you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?

In short, my daughters. I always wanted to be a physician, but it was not a real financial option for me when I was younger. I still wanted to make a difference, so I became a teacher. But, when my daughters where born I knew that I could not expect them to achieve their dreams if I gave up on mine.

Please share how many children you have.

I have two daughters, Syriana is 5 and Ariana is almost three.

What challenges have you faced while trying to balance your family and school?

It is always a challenge to balance school and family, but as long as you have your priorities straight it is amazing what you can do. If my daughter is sick I miss class. But as long as you talk to your professors they will go out of their way to help you succeed. The U of L Post-Bacc program has a reputation on campus for having excellent students and professors will go out of their way to help the students who take their education seriously.

How have you been able to strike a balance with your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?

I treat my education like a professional career. I am in class or studying from 9 am to 5pm five days a week. I do no school work at all between 5 and the time my girls go to bed around 8. I spend that time with them. I still cook dinner and we sit at the table and talk about our days. Then we go outside to play or watch a movie or some other form of “family time.” If I have a test or am behind I sometimes study after the girls go to sleep for a few more hours. I don’t do much studying on the weekend but it just really depends on what is going on. This approach has not given me 100% on every test but I am doing well enough to consider myself a very competitive applicant.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream?

I did give up on it when I choose to pursue a different degree. It was a mistake. I know this path is long and fraught with peril, but if medicine is where your heart is then it is a path worth taking. I am a role model to my daughters now and that is something of which I am very proud. Not because I am becoming a physician, but because through my own hard work, I am achieving my dreams.

Do you worry about how medical school will further impact that balancing act? If so, what concerns you most?

Of course I worry! I am after all a mother. I have been lucky enough to meet a few mothers and fathers who have “gone before me,” and I know that it's possible. When I chose this path I knew it would be tough. But, I never asked for easy; all I needed to know was if it was possible. The answer to that is yes, it is absolutely possible to be a good mother and a good student.

What advice can you share with a parent planning to apply to our program?

If this is your dream go for it! There are a whole bunch of us that are living proof that you can be a good parent and a good student. You have something that many students do not to motivate you. Your kids are watching you either succeed or fail. That is the greatest motivator I have. When I don’t feel like studying, I have a picture of them to remind me that my successes are not just my own. They belong to our children too, who will say that they can do anything because they watched their parents do it. People always say “I don’t know how you do it with kids!” and all I can say to them is, “I don’t know how you do it without them!”

Beatrice Ugiliweneza, Ph.D. - Spring 2012 Cohort

Beatrice and daughters

What was your academic and career background prior to this program?

In undergraduate, I studied theoretical mathematics and physics. Then in graduate school I switched to applied statistics. I also studied biostatistics and data mining. As a career, I work as a statistician. My role is mostly support for a researcher in Neurosurgery, that means that we discuss about what he wants to pursue and provide the statistical data for the paper. Recently though, I have been given the opportunity to work on my own papers as long as they are in the line of Neurosurgery. So, I have been thinking about what interests me the most, which is policy evaluation, health services research and methods to use secondary data to perform them.

What lead you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?

I guess I should mention here that I wanted to be a doctor since I was very young. As far as I can remember, since first or second grade, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. But life took me on a journey! When it came time for college, I was a refugee in a foreign country in Africa and I could not have the chance to pursue my dreams, I could not get a scholarship; mother could not pay and the UN would not finance such a long program. I locked my dreams in my heart and pursued Math.

Now, back to the question. When I started my job, I was very excited! It was not my childhood dream but it was close, I thought. It was in medicine, supporting and being involved in medical research… which in the end will contribute to help people and make their lives better. However, I have to say, being there revived my passion even more. I remember, just 6 months in the job, searching about medical school. I would open the website, look at the requirements, look at the courses in medical school, and look at my life and how long I have been in school….. and close the website. A week later, I would find myself doing the same thing again…. As time went by (a few months), I started convincing myself that I could do it –since I wanted it so bad and my heart would not quit bumping in my chest, trying to unlock my dream. I made an appointment with an advisor in medical school, she led me to the post-bac pre-med program and the rest is history.

Please share how many children you have.

I have two daughters. When I started in the program, the first one was 4 years old and the second one was 2 years old.

What challenges have you faced while trying to balance your family and school?

For me, it has not been very easy. Young children are demanding since they depend on you for almost everything. As they grow up, get to do some of the basic things on their own, their demands on you change but it feels like it is the same intensity. On the other hand, undergraduate classes are demanding, especially when you are trying to get very good grades to be admitted in medical school. Specifically for me, the main challenge is to find time with my girls. I feel like it’s not enough. On a good week, after work, I pick them up from school, take them to afterschool activities (swimming or soccer usually), bring them home, feed them, supervise on the homework then send them to bed. Then and only then, I can get to my books…. Until well…. Sometimes 2 o’clock. On Saturday, I either find someone to stay with them while I go to the library to get some work done or stay home with them and study while they watch TV. On Sunday, house work, more school work and the next day, the whole shebang restarts. It’s exhausting. Quality time with hubby, you say? Hun…. on a good week, 2-3 hours. On a not-so-good week, 0 hours. Probably, we will make up after medical school. To summarize, the biggest challenge is time management. How many hours, are there in a week? I have to divide that time between a full-time job, half-time school, two young children and a husband. Do the math!!! I have to nibble on the sleep…a lot.

How have you been able to strike a balance with your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?

I want to say that I have been able to achieve a balance, but the truth is that, it’s a working progress; and I anticipate that it will still be this way until I start practicing medicine.I had to get to a point where I disciplined myself to follow the schedule I set for myself because if I waste 5 minutes (which I do sometimes), then I will pay in sleepless time, which is never fun. I also had to get my kids very disciplined. I am disciplinarian mom. It works and it is beneficial not only for my kids but also for my-self. I talk to my kids about what’s going on and why I am going back to school and why I can’t be there sometimes when other moms are there and why sometimes I am there with my books and papers when other moms are just there to cheer. I think they understand, at least they act like they do.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream?

Unfortunately, yes. When I started, one of my first classes was biology. I had not had to memorize things as a way of studying for a long time. Since I entered college, the studying method was: understand the concept, know how to apply it, maybe one or two formulas in the whole chapter… then you are good to go. Unfortunately, there are no million ways to study biology, it’s memorization, rote memorization. And there is nothing you can do about it, it’s the nature of the beast. It was hard; I struggled a lot and thought about quitting. But I am happy I did not. But the hole it left in my GPA, I am still trying to fill it up. But you know, life is not a straight line and those are little turns you have to take to get stronger. I also have to say that, it does happen that I have giving-up thoughts every now and then. For example, when I am very tired and feel like I am going to explode or when I feel like I worked so hard but get a not-so-good grade, I have moments when I have to go deep in my heart and re-evaluate why I am doing this and why it’s a good idea to go on and especially why it’s not a good idea to quit. One of my best rocks that pulls me up from those deep thoughts is this: “If I don’t do this now, I will regret it 20 years down the road and at that time, it will not be possible to it”. I appreciate these moments and cherish them, they make me stronger, they keep me going, they remind me of why I am doing this in the first place and they make me resilient.

Do you worry about how medical school will further impact that balancing act?

To be honest, I feel that if I survive the post-bac pre-med, I think I will make it, balance-wise, in medical school. I won’t be working then. Someone (a former post-bac mom now in medical school) told me that she treats medical school like work, she comes in the morning every day even if she doesn’t have classes early or not at all, she stays until 4:00 or 5:00 even if the classes finish earlier. She does this every day. I intend to do the same thing. Nevertheless, I anticipate that it will not be easy. I will still have to work on the balancing act every day.

If so, what concerns you most?

Again, time with children. It’s crucial and they grow up so fast. Medical school is hard and demanding, it will consume a big chunk of my time and I do worry that whatever I will have left will not be enough for them.

What advice can you share with a parent planning to apply to our program?

Let me take this opportunity to say that at this time, I would not like to be doing anything else but being a post-bac. Not many people are able to achieve their dreams and here I am on a path to achieving mine. Moreover, I am setting an example for my kids that you can always achieve your dreams; it doesn’t matter how old you are and what stage of your life you are in. Also, I believe that I am helping them develop the value of not giving up and being the best you can be by working hard. The fact of the matter is, those who do not have a family have much more time. I feel it and I think about it probably more times than I should. But my motto is that “you have to work with what you have” and “ you have no excuses not to succeed”: “make it work”. And one more thing : “ Yes, you can!”.To parents planning to apply, a few words: buckle-up, it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride! But a fun one! There is no alternative to your dream. My brother says (a quote from someone I don’t know): “If you don’t live realizing your dream, you live realizing somebody else’s”. I want to believe that no one should have to choose between having a family and realizing a dream. It is possible to do both.

Brandi Jones, Ph.D. - Fall 2011 Cohort

Brandi Jones

What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
Prior to entering the post-bac program, I had completed undergraduate work at IU, earning a BS in Psychology and minoring in biology and criminal justice. I then pursued graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh and completed
their dual degree doctoral program in Clinical and Developmental Psychology. Following completion of my training, including post-doctoral work in Indianapolis, I took a position as a faculty member at U of L in the School of Medicine,
which is where I continue to work at the present time as a pediatric psychologist.

What lead you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?

Considerable thought went into my decision to leave my current career and pursue medicine. The primary reason I chose to change when I did was an opportunity presented itself with this program at a time when my department and job were undergoing major changes. I decided at that time to pursue what I had originally set out to do in undergrad as an initial pre-med major. In my work in multiple medical centers, my interests were further solidified in the mind-body connection and the importance of being able to manage both physical and mental health concerns.

Please share how many children you have.

I have a 12 year old daughter, Vahja, who is a very active young lady. I also provide care for my 7 year old niece.

What challenges have you faced while trying to balance your family and school?

Juggling my work and school schedules with limitations on when courses were offered was very difficult. Added to that plate were my community service involvements both through the program and independent projects that I had already been completing. But of all of my commitments, the most important and the one that I made time for above all else was caregiving for my daughter, which meant making time for homework help, attending extracurriculars, and tending to typical household responsibilities.

How have you been able to strike a balance with your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?

Time management has definitely been important, and I've learned that it is an area in which I need to continue to develop. Thus, effectively balancing all aspects of my life has remained a work in progress.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream?

There have certainly been times when I've felt overwhelmed and questioned my ability to manage it all. This was especially true when I realized that my timeline for completion of the program and admission to med school would be delayed due to only participating in the program part-time. However, with the support of my family and friends, along with the support of physician friends, I received the encouragement I needed to keep going.

Do you worry about how medical school will further impact that balancing act? If so, what concerns you most?

I think balancing the current demands of the program with all of my other obligations at this time has vetted me. So, I feel like in being able to get through this, balancing life in med school won't be a huge adjustment.

What advice can you share with a parent planning to apply to our program?

The thing that I think parents need to consider most when applying to a program such as this is the timing. Is now the right time for me to take this on? Do I currently have too many other things on my plate already that are making me feel overwhelmed? If so, how can I restructure things to make room for this? What am I willing to sacrifice? I think the final question is the most important for parents because there will be concessions made to make this happen and your quality of life will change. So you really have to make sure you are ready to make that kind of commitment.