Matt Burke reflects on his summer in DoM Student Mentorship Program

My name is Matthew Burke and I am a sophomore medical student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. In collaboration with my mentor Dr. Samantha Wang |, my research last summer (2021) was titled Teaching Anti-Racism: Insights from a Community Board of Black Patients. We have developed a new learning framework called the 5-Minute Moment for Racial Justice (5MMRJ) to facilitate bedside health equity teaching. [Click on the 5MMRJ video]†

Growing up, I watched my mother offer pro bono legal advice to her clients, and I watched my father spend hours of his time teaching disadvantaged people about business and corporate law in the San Antonio area. It struck me that my parents’ greatest sense of joy came from serving our community. Witnessing my parents’ advocacy and service activities sparked my passion for community service and volunteerism.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent 500 hours on the front lines vaccinating and triaging Nashvillians before they got their vaccine. As a black male, I’ve seen family, friends, teammates, and strangers in my community put their health on the back burner. The prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease is widespread in our community, and a lack of trust in health care providers is common among the underprivileged.

I saw the pandemic as an opportunity to educate and help my community, whether that meant sending Instagram DMs to my friends educating them about the safety of the Covid vaccine or vaccinating the community itself. I am writing this to emphasize that one of my primary goals in life is to provide equal care for patients of all backgrounds and to serve the communities in which I live.

As a late bloomer in doing research, I was quite nervous about embarking on my first research experience. It seemed like such a transcendent rise from no research experience, except the required undergraduate lab courses, to working with Stanford’s PRESENCE Center, within the Department of Medicine, but I knew this would be an opportunity of a lifetime. I initially thought all research required micro-pipetting and bench work, so when I first connected with Dr. Wang, I was excited to learn that our research would focus on racial health equity. As the summer progressed, I grew increasingly confident in my ability to conduct research, interview educators, and lead community advisory board (CAB) meetings on the topic of racial health equity.

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