Published on Feb. 24, 2021
Name: Jarron Tilghman
Undergraduate university and year of graduation: University of Missouri-Columbia, 2003
Medical school and year of graduation: University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, 2009
What led to your interest in medicine?
During junior and senior high school, I had several teachers who felt that I should consider a career in medicine based upon my academic performance in my science classes. My mother and several of my aunts agreed with this notion. Additionally, I genuinely enjoyed the idea of helping people who were hurting regain their prior level of function even as a kid. Moreover, there had never been a medical doctor in my family’s history and the idea of becoming the first was intriguing to me.
What experiences did you have that confirmed medicine was the right career for you?
Participation in laboratory research was not enjoyable to me even though I did well in science. I knew then that I did not want to pursue this as a career. Participating as a volunteer at community health clinics, working part-time as a tech in a hospital setting, and shadowing a wide variety of physicians confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine.
Who or what inspired you?
I was inspired by physicians who looked liked me. Whether it was a fictitious character on the Cosby Show or ER or a real life role model like Dr. Ellis Ingram, I was motivated and driven by my desire to one day work as a physician like these guys. I was also motivated by the naysayers especially those who did not look like me. The doubters lit a fire within me to excel academically and prove them wrong. Moreover, I truly wanted to make my family proud and I was well aware of the fact that pursuing a career in medicine would certainly enable to achieve that goal.
What challenges or obstacles have you faced in pursuit of a medical career?
I come from a broken home. Growing up, I saw emotional and physical abuse that stemmed from alcohol and substance abuse. I saw my parents’ marriage deteriorate. This led to significant emotional stress and financial strain on our family. In the classroom, I found that I was a slow reader and as a result, I struggled with standardized tests. I have had to retake standardized tests more times than I care to recall. Although I graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA, I graduated from college with 3.0 GPA. This was not as competitive as many of my pre-med cohorts. I was later formally diagnosed with test-taking anxiety. Additionally, I had to overcome the internal dialogue that contained an excessive amount of negative self-speak.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
During my junior year of college, I met with a pre-med advisor to begin to get serious about my plans to pursue a career in medicine. I attended summer medical enrichment programs catered toward underrepresented minority pre-med students. I took MCAT prep courses. I also attended a postbaccalaureate program called MEDPREP at SIU Carbondale School of Medicine. Moreover, I surrounded myself with role models and positive people in my life who believed in me and kept me grounded. I asked lots of questions and actively sought resources that I needed from family and friends rather financial or otherwise.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
Put God first!! The road to becoming a physician is not an easy one. If you can block out all of the statistics, block out all of the naysayers, block out your negative self speak related to past academic performances and just know that God has a plan for you and your life, things will go lot more smoothly. You must work hard in the classroom, do your best on standardized tests, and gain clinical experience but what is just as important is your ability to enjoy the journey and also let go and let God.