Exploring Gap Year Options Before Medical School: Joy Udoh ’19

March 18, 2020
Jaimie Yue ’22
Black woman smiling with white background.
Joy Udoh '19 Photo credit: Courtesy of Joy Udoh

Joy Udoh ’19 was a neuroscience major on the pre-med track while at Oberlin. Now, during her gap year before medical school, she is a doctor’s assistant at Kuchnir Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery.

She serves as a patient care coordinator and also assists dermatologists before, during, and after patient consultations with procedures, prescriptions, paperwork, and scribing.

What does an average day at Kuchnir Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery look like for you?

On an average day, I prepare the clinic rooms for the day, assist the providers with patient consultations, whether that's intake of the patient's health history and chief complaint, assisting with a biopsy procedure or minor surgery, wound dressing, or scribing during the appointments. I do a variety of different things during the day depending on what the provider's schedule looks like. In essence, I anticipate the needs of the doctors and patients I work with to ensure that their healthcare experience is as smooth as possible.

What do you like most about your current position?

I enjoy the fact that I have the opportunity to gain such valuable clinical experience so soon after college. I’ve gained a lot of skills that are more traditionally taught in the later years of medical schools, whether that’s patient intake histories, learning to communicate effectively with patients, or assisting with minor procedures. They are skills that will continue to be useful as I study and practice medicine. Having the opportunity to gain substantial experience in healthcare has been invaluable to committing to medicine as a career path.

What drew you to neuroscience at Oberlin?

I was initially interested in neuroscience coming into Oberlin mainly because of the relative novelty of the field and my love for the sciences in general. I took my first neuroscience course in my sophomore year to decide if it was something I was willing to commit to for the next four years, and I really enjoyed the lectures and most especially the labs. The brain truly fascinated me, and learning about it reinforced my interest and passion to learn more about it and how it relates to other systems in the body.

What extracurricular activities were you a part of at Oberlin?

I served as cochair for the African Students Association, cochair for the Neuroscience Majors and Department Association, junior class president, and senior class vice president. I am also a trained mediator and worked as an intern in the Yeworkwha Belachew Center for Dialogue. I was also an Oberlin Workshop and Learning Session tutor and quantitative skills tutor, and contributed to the launch of the Peer Advising Leader and Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources programs.

Did any extracurricular activities or student jobs at Oberlin give you professional experience or build professional skills?

All the positions I served in and the training I participated in have been invaluable to me. They taught me how to communicate effectively and collaborate with people. I also made meaningful connections with people in various offices over the years, which proved to be a very helpful support network. My organizational skills and stamina have been very important in my role as a doctor's assistant, and the experiences I had at Oberlin played a significant role in developing those skills.

Do you see yourself continuing to work in dermatology? What are your future plans?

I didn’t have much prior knowledge in dermatology before I began this job, and I’ve learned so much about it in these past months. I graduated with a neuroscience degree, so that’s what I’m primarily interested in. I wanted to be intentional about gaining experience in different specialties during my summers and during this gap year. I wish to become a doctor, but I’m not set on what specialty I would like to go into. Experiences like this gap program have been very helpful in feeling out my interests. 

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