“It set me up to be the type of doctor I want to be.”

August 16, 2021 by Elena Conway

Philanthropic support gave Monica Meeks the chance to attend her dream medical school

In her last year of college at Washington University in St. Louis, Monica Meeks realized she wanted to pursue a medical degree. But by that point, her scholarship would not be able to cover the additional classes needed to qualify for medical school. She would spend the next two years balancing part-time jobs with discounted courses in preparation to apply.

When she was accepted to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2016, Meeks was finally able to focus less on financing her education and more on fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor, thanks to the support of several endowed scholarships, including the Class of 1976 Endowed Scholarship Fund, the Denise M. Dufer, M.D. Memorial Scholarship Fund, the Gorham Family Scholarship for Medical Education, and the Douglas G. Carroll, Jr. Student Aid Fund.

We talked to Meeks, Med ’21 (MD), shortly before beginning her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in July.

Monica smiles standing outside in her graduation cap and gown.
After graduating in June, Monica Meeks began her doctor’s residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in July.

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins?

Hopkins has always been my dream med school. It’s so well renowned for global health work and clinical medicine, which have been my primary interests. I thought it would be a reach when applying, and I was floored when I even got an interview, let alone got in.

But I also wanted to choose the best place I could afford. That turned out to be Hopkins, thanks to financial aid. The debt I have is now manageable, and I don’t feel that any certain career paths will be cut off for me because of it.

What impact have scholarships had on your academic experience?

I had to work 30-ish hours a week prior to medical school to support myself. Money was tight, and I had to say ‘no’ to many things. People sometimes forget that there are certain spaces in which even middle-class people can have trouble accessing because costs are so exorbitant. I don’t think I could have gone to Washington University in St. Louis or Johns Hopkins without the financial aid I received for both. Being able to attend those institutions made a really big difference in my life. It set me up to be the type of doctor I want to be and to do that kind of work I want to do. I’m really grateful that was possible.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences while at Hopkins?

The patient encounters are what stick with you the most — when you’re able to feel you made a difference for someone.

For example, when I was on my sub-internship in internal medicine, I had one patient readmitted to the hospital with nausea and vomiting. I got to do the admission and take him on as my own patient. We found out that he had advanced pancreatic cancer. My senior resident told me, ‘This is a heavy diagnosis to deliver, but I think you should be the one to tell them the diagnosis. You’re ready, and you know him the best of anyone on our team.’

It was a really hard, emotional conversation with the patient and his wife, but my team prepared me to communicate in a way that built a lot of trust between the patient and me. I saw him every day before he got discharged, and he hugged and thanked me for guiding him through it. I felt I was given the tools I needed to make his life a little bit less terrible in the midst of receiving such terrible news.

Knowing that it’s possible, even as a medical student, to really have an impact on someone’s illness and healing was very memorable for me. Now that I’m an official intern, I want my medical students to know that you don’t have to know everything or be perfect to have a positive impact on a patient’s life.

What would you tell others who are faced with the financial challenges of attending medical school?

I would tell others to advocate for themselves. Seek out scholarships, and apply to as many as possible. You can’t get the help you need if you don’t ask for it. A few thousand dollars here and there can really add up in the long term.


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Topics: Alumni, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, School of Medicine, Support Scholars