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Life and Work with Courtnie Brown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtnie Brown.

Courtnie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a first-year medical student in the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program. I only started school a few months ago so it still feels surreal to say that I’ve finally made it. I definitely didn’t wake up one day and just decide to pursue becoming a doctor, but I can pinpoint the experiences that rightfully led me to my purpose. I was born in Gardena and moved around between Gardena and Compton before my mom and I settled in Hawthorne. I loved growing up in the South Bay; anyone that’s born and raised in LA has such a deep love for the city that you really only experience as a native. You kind of get the best of both worlds in LA – on one end, there’s the publicized “glitz and glamour” but when you really grow up here, you also see the complete opposite end of the spectrum too. I not only witnessed the health disparities within my community, but I also saw how these systematic inequities directly affected my family. When I was nine, I lost my grandma to breast cancer; she was like a second parent to me. I can easily say this was one of the most impressionable moments that led me to medicine. My family has had many more breast cancer diagnoses since the passing of my grandma and each time I felt even more fueled and dedicated to becoming a doctor. As a first-generation Black American young woman, I want to bring diversity to medicine to begin to bridge the gap between the medical profession and underserved communities.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. One of my biggest challenges was my first year as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University. Hopkins is in Baltimore, MD which is about 2,300 miles from LA. I grew up extremely attached to my mom and for most of my life, it was just me and her navigating life together. Being away from her made me sick and it made my adjustment to college and living on my own very tough. Even applying to medical school was a challenge for me. The year-long application process really took a toll on me – there’s exams, written applications, interviews, and waiting to hear back about whether I was accepted or not was torture. Many people pursuing medicine have those moments where they doubt themselves and there’s so much talk about “imposter syndrome” within the community. As a woman, and on top of that a Black woman, I’ve had so many times where I began to think I wasn’t enough. I really have to take a step back and focus on the facts: I’m here because I worked hard to be here and I absolutely deserve to be here. When you want something, you have to be diligent in your efforts to attain it and that’s exactly what I did. I love emphasizing that my path has its fair share of twists and turns because it makes my accomplishments that much more meaningful to me. I also hope that my story can be a motivation for those with similar aspirations.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
My capacity to understand health disparities faced by underserved communities expanded during my undergraduate years. I sought ways to contribute and discovered the Global Brigades organization at Hopkins. I embarked on a weeklong medical trip to Honduras where I met amazing people with triumphant life stories. As I observed physician-patient interactions, I took note of the importance of giving back to disadvantaged communities. The volunteer physicians on this brigade were raised in marginalized communities and the comfort they felt when treating those from similar backgrounds was evident. I saw the beauty of being able to connect with and ease the nerves of patients who had prior mistrust in the medical system. This trip enabled me to reflect on the healthcare inequalities I have seen in my everyday life, and I realized that I could make a true difference as a healthcare provider. As a medical student, I’ve been able to directly impact my community. I’m involved with the Student-Run Homeless Clinic and in partnership with the UCLA undergraduate campus, I volunteered at the South LA Women’s Center to give free foot exams to the women of the shelter. A lot of these women spend hours upon hours standing or walking and being able to see the immediate results from my involvement at this clinic was amazing. I’m currently looking for programs to get even more involved with addressing health disparity in my community.

Who have you been inspired by?
My mom – hands down. She is the most selfless and resilient woman I know and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am completely obsessed with her. I don’t think I will ever truly comprehend all of the sacrifices she has made for me. She is my biggest supporter and also one of my main sources of motivation. My mom is my everything and I absolutely would not have made it here without her. I also have to give major credit to two of my best friends – Ashley and Victoria. We met during the first week of our freshman year at Hopkins and they soon became my “east coast family”. Now, they are both second-year medical students in Chicago and they are always there for me personally and professionally. I will be the first doctor in my family so being able to turn to them for professional advice has been a huge component in my success. A large portion of my inspiration also comes from the women of my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. It would be impossible to list all of the women that have mentored and supported me throughout this journey.

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