Student Finds Resilience and Support Key in Journey to Med School

As a child growing up in Buffalo, Alexis Sykes developed an interest in medicine while spending time in hospitals visiting relatives and witnessing the important role doctors played. Along with medicine, she became interested in public health and research, developing a passion about how all these fields intersect.

“I always thought of a physician as a problem solver who not only saved lives, but also restored families,” said Sykes.

Her family, and especially her grandmother, encouraged her to aim high and get the education that neither she nor Sykes’ parents received. Her grandmother was a senior in high school when her parents passed away suddenly. Even though she had aspirations to go to college, she was not able to since she was responsible for taking care of her siblings. Alexis’ grandmother was her biggest inspiration and mentored her through the application process. But when she applied to medical school, she found her MCAT scores were not competitive enough, and she worried the admissions process was all about numbers. Alexis’ grandmother told her pursue admissions regardless.

Throughout her undergraduate education at Spelman College, Sykes prepared for her future by pursuing opportunities shadowing physicians and extracurricular activities. Admissions officers at SUNY Upstate Medical University looked beyond just scores and recognized that Sykes would be an excellent addition to the medical school and offered her guaranteed admission upon completion of AMSNY’s Medical Scholars Program at Upstate, a two-year diversity pipeline program where students earn a Master of Science in Medical Technology. The curriculum focuses on microbiology and includes a research thesis and a mentoring component, with the larger goal of preparing students for the rigors of medical school. Alexis’ passion for research was displayed at the 2017 CSTEP Conference, where she won an award in the cell biology category for her poster presentation.

The program’s materials and lectures bridged the gaps in Sykes’ knowledge and helped her regain the academic confidence she lost during the MCAT and application process. She realized she was not a poor learner, as she feared, just misinformed. Not having access to a rigorous and expensive MCAT preparation course, Sykes had to develop new study skills that worked for her on her own. She discovered that learning differently from her peers was not an indication of failure, but a testament to her resilience.

“I now feel up to speed and ready to competitively take on medical school,” said Sykes.

She is currently a first year medical student at Upstate Medical University.