Meet Peter Salam Beah, the 2017–2018 recipient of the Jackson/Minton Scholarship.
What made Peter want to go into medicine?
“My mother is a nurse, so that was my original motivation. I remember looking at one of her review books as a kid and knowing I wanted to know more about the body. As I got older, what continued to attract me to medicine was the opportunity to use medical knowledge and the relationship you build with patients to help heal them.”
Take us through your journey into medicine:
“My family did not grow up with a lot of resources, so the path to medicine was not always the easiest. My parents emigrated from Cameroon and Sierra Leone, which meant they did not know much about getting into medical school besides going to a 4-year University and getting good science grades. I feel fortunate that I grew up with a loving and supporting home, which helped me stay on the path when times were hard and the way was unclear. I did undergrad at University of Maryland, College Park, where I will admit, outside of the pre-med advising office, I struggled to find mentors on how to approach applying to medical school; an issue I’m sure many other black men interested in medicine also face. I joined a co-ed Pre-health fraternity during my sophomore year and that provided a strong network of older students I could go to for questions and advice. Looking back, this was one of the keys to my entrance into medical school. I took 2 years off between college and medical school, where I worked as an ECG technician in order to get more clinical experience and strengthen my application for medical school. I interviewed at Jefferson, loved the interview day, and the rest is history.”
Do you have any ideas of how we can increase the number of black men in medicine?
“I have been thinking about the answer to this question since I entered medical school. As black men currently in medicine, we have to continue to give back and provide mentorship and support to all the young black students who have the same childhood dream as I had. I always think of the Michelle Obama quote: “When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back, and give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” We have to go one step further and give young black men more chances. Jefferson and other institutions provide different pipeline programs that give students at all levels career counseling and exposure to medicine. Resources I would have never imagined when I was younger. Current black men in medicine should seek out programs like these at their local institutions and participate, because the representation makes these programs that much more inspiring.”