Health Sciences student Carina McClean helped establish the UCF chapter of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine (NSBWM) as treasurer in her sophomore year to support Black women on campus who are pursuing careers in healthcare and other scientific disciplines. The UCF chapter is one of 10 collegiate sections around the nation that promote advancement through mentorship from medical graduate students and professionals. Today, McClean serves as the group’s president and is leading the charge to build upon its active membership at UCF by encouraging students to enter health-related careers.
The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that Black women make up 9.4% of women in medical schools while 2% of Black women are part of the active physician workforce. The NSBWM carefully “matches” student members with mentors who identify as Black women and are established in the scientific and healthcare fields.
By sharing their learned experiences and skills, the mentors empower students toward academic and professional success. The group also offers community service activities and holds informational seminars on career pathways. The organization is open to Black women interested in exploring health fields as a career option.
Hometown: Chuluota, FL
What drew your interest to a career in health sciences?
I initially applied to UCF as a psychology major because I had no idea what it meant to be a pre-medical student. Luckily, my friend introduced me to health sciences as a major and I saw that courses like Preventative Health Care and Introduction to Careers in Health Professions drew my interest. Graduating with a health sciences degree creates more opportunities to join the medical field and is in line with my career goal of becoming a physician. My personal experience with sports injuries and volunteering at the hospital also contributed to expanding my knowledge about the medical field and what it had to offer.
What are your future goals and what excites you about them?
I would like to be a physician and would find joy in working toward closing healthcare disparities (e.g., racial inequity, uninsured, underinsured individuals, etc.). I think that’s really important. And I think a big part of that is demystifying medicine. For example, there are helpful programs that people potentially don’t know about because sometimes they may be afraid to see physicians. I hope to educate the public and make it accessible to them.
Why is having a UCF chapter of NSBWM important?
I think representation is a huge part of health equity, so we’ve established a mentorship program with other health professionals and graduate students to help navigate the ambiguous path of pre-medical, pre-nursing, and other health-related fields. It’s really one of a kind because there isn’t a spot for Black women to gather with common experiences who want to enter the medical field – which is notoriously hard to get into. So just that support, I think, is something really important to have on campus.
What are some of the resources that NSBWM has available through the mentorship program?
Besides the support, it’s the information that we have access to. For example, one of the things that I wasn’t aware of was that you have to apply a year before you actually want to go to medical school. A lot of it is understanding the process of entering your desired career. Small things like that make a big difference. And being able to provide it in a concise way, while having the support of a mentor through it is helpful.
What piece of advice do you have for students?
Don’t be afraid of adversity. Sometimes we have outcomes that we don’t expect, I would advise not to let that discourage anyone from trying. When I was a freshman, I applied for a certain leadership position that I just couldn’t get. It could have stopped me and been a roadblock. But instead, I used it as something I could learn from and looked for another opportunity to have that same positive effect on campus – that’s how I learned about NSBWM. Though it wasn’t a registered student organization at the time, we worked together as a team and now have our UCF chapter for future students to use as a sisterhood.