I am four generations removed from slavery. I am a second-generation college graduate and, in 2021, I will become a first-generation medical doctor.
My white coat represents to me the perseverance of my ancestors who travelled over 6,000 miles under the worst living conditions possible for two to three months.
To me, my white coat represents my grandmother and grandfather fleeing barefoot from a plantation in West Memphis, Arkansas, where they were working as sharecroppers in the 1930s, to start a new life and a family in Memphis, Tennessee.
Looking at my white coat, I envision the resilience of my mother, who at age 16, was a single mother of one (my older sister) and a high school graduate, working two jobs to provide for herself and her daughter on the Westside of Chicago, Illinois, in the 1970s.
At one point in my education, there was some uncertainty whether I would even become a physician because I struggled with the MCAT and was denied admittance to medical school multiple times.
After three unsuccessful application cycles, I sought advice from a medical school’s admissions counselor on enhancing my application and making myself a more competitive applicant. She gave me the profile of competitive applicants applying to the school in question and then went on to suggest that I should explore other career options such as nursing or becoming an EM technician.
Fortunately, I didn’t let that meeting shatter my hope of becoming a physician because I knew that I am a product of resilience, perseverance, and bravery that my ancestors have passed down to me from generation to generation.
My white coat represents the conquering of the obstacles in my life. My journey to becoming a physician has not been a smooth road and is truly a testament of hard work, determination, and a drive to succeed. Instead of allowing obstacles in my journey to discourage me, I used my diligence as fuel to persevere.
These obstacles allowed me to strengthen and enhance the skills and traits that are essential to becoming a great doctor. Managing the obstacles in my life has prepared me to empathize with patients from underserved communities, and, hopefully, I can be a beacon of light in their lives to motivate and encourage them to persevere.
Last, my white coat symbolizes hope for future generations of black and brown people that there are no limits to what they can achieve despite what society might tell them.
With the genetic and phenotypic makeup of physicians continuing to diversify, I hope that this will increase the level of trust of minority communities in physicians and that, as a result, will improve the health and quality of life of minority and underserved communities.
Blake Forte, a native of Flowood, Mississippi, is a medical student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He aspires to become an Emergency Medicine physician, who will be able to relate, communicate effectively, and empathize with his patients. When he’s not at school, he enjoys spending time with his friends and family, watching and playing sports, and taking photos of skylines, graffiti, and architecture with his camera.