Welcome back to our #SNMAExcellence Series!
In this series, we are going to be routinely featuring both SNMA chapters and members that have displayed excellence through academic endeavors, community service, leadership roles, and/or research activities. If you feel that you or your chapter represents the excellence that the SNMA upholds on a daily basis, go on ahead and fill out this form! #SNMAExcellence
Name: Umaru Barrie
Hometown: Harlem, NY
Undergraduate Institution: University at Albany, SUNY
College Major: Major: Human Biology and Chemistry; Minor: African Studies and Neuroscience
Medical School: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Favorite Quote: "He who looks for honey must have the courage to face the bees” - African Proverb
Contact Information: Umaru.barrie@UTSouthwestern.edu
LinkedIn – Umaru Barrie
Our eighth feature in the #SNMAExcellence series is Umaru Barrie, a third-year MD/PhD candidate at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center! Throughout his time in medical school, Umaru has work extensively in various areas such as healthcare advocacy, global health, pipeline programs, community outreach and administrative affairs. His expansive involvement at his school, in his own community and in various communities around the world earned him the UT Southwestern Medical Center Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award! In addition to the community service work he performs, he is heavily involved in the SNMA, currently serving as a National Future Leadership Project Fellowship coordinator. He hopes to continue his leadership development in the SNMA as well as to match into an Emergency Medicine residency program before pursuing a fellowship in global health! This future physician has plenty to offer in his feature, which you can read below!
Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?
I am currently a 3rd year MD/PhD candidate. In 7 years, I will graduate with my Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) with distinction in Global Health and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biomedical Sciences degrees with a distinction in Molecular Microbiology. I will commit to an Emergency Medicine residency and then pursue an international health/global health fellowship. A commitment to being a physician-scientist will make me a world-renowned molecular microbiology expert guiding generations of scientists as a principal investigator, in addition to leading physicians as an attending physician to bolster the understanding of the broader interaction between science and medicine. I will engage in clinical and academic medicine to eventually further pursue administrative positions focused on helping shape the roadmap of medicine and our national strategy to improve community healthcare. Ultimately, working with medical, philanthropic and humanitarian organizations to expand worldwide access while reducing costs of lifesaving medicines and diagnostic tools in the world will give me a global understanding of mechanisms underlying healthcare disparities to drive change.
What are your biggest accomplishments in medical school to date?
In the past two years as an MD/PhD Candidate at UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW), I worked on multitudes of endeavors in healthcare advocacy, global health, pipeline programs, community outreach and administrative affairs that correspond to my future career aspirations. I was elected co-president of my medical class of 250 students at UTSW, allowing me to represent my classmates in addressing administrative and academic matters, while creating student-led committees focused on research, student wellness, and interprofessional student education. To engage in global health, I applied and was successfully accepted to the thesis-driven MD with distinction in Global Health Program at UTSW and became an officer for the Global Health Interest Group. I coordinated two spring break medical trips to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and helped to fundraise more than $2,500 for medical supplies, medicines and vitamins for each trip. During the trips, my team treated more than 1000 individuals in five underserved communities in Santo Domingo. Additionally, we provided community health education on water hygiene and proper hydration.
During the summer of 2018, I embarked on a UTSW Office of Global Health-sponsored trip to lead medical research, service, and advocacy efforts targeting key challenges in the Kanungu District of Uganda and establish connections with medical centers in five different countries in Eastern Africa (Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya). In Uganda, I partnered with a Dallas-based philanthropic organization, the Kellermann Foundation (http://www.kellermannfoundation.org/), which owns Bwindi Community Hospital and pursued two different research projects in collaboration with the University of Southampton (Southampton, United Kingdom), Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (Miami, FL) and The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine (Birmingham, AL) focused on Child Mortality: A quantitative and qualitative community health assessment exploring the variables and risk factors related to the trend in mortality from 2008 to 2018 and HIV/AIDS: Identifying Barriers to HIV Management and Treatment in the Kanungu District of Uganda. Both projects directly support the research and information needs of USAID and PEPFAR--Uganda Portfolio.
To stay true to my dedication to begin charity at home, I volunteered more than 200 hours at UTSW’s community health fairs and free clinics. In addition, I provided culturally sensitive health education and tutoring to refugees in Dallas through my organization #refugeeswelcome. Growing up in Harlem, I found it rare to meet doctors who looked like me, thus it was difficult to envision myself as one. Consequently, I now mentor underrepresented high school and undergraduate students interested in science careers through multiple pipeline programs and organize an annual symposium at UTSW introducing high school students to healthcare careers. Furthermore, to foster a community of health advocates, I co-created an integrated medical education elective with the UTSW Student Diversity & Inclusion Office at UTSW, introducing medical students first-hand to healthcare in underserved communities. I plan to expand this elective across American medical schools.
My major community involvement projects for the past two years were the 2017-2018 DFW Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and Hurricane Harvey Relief Project. I worked with the Dallas County Health Department and UTSW to provide volunteer opportunities for students to assist at the “mega-shelter” housing evacuees in Dallas. Together, we coordinated the logistics and onsite point of contacts for more 200 volunteers who put in over 1500 hours. In addition, my relief drive collected more than 500 pounds of donated goods for local Hurricane Harvey donation centers. For my work in the past two years at UTSW, I was awarded the UT Southwestern Medical Center Martin Luther King, Jr Community Service Award.
How has the SNMA impacted your medical school experience?
SNMA at UT Southwestern has been home away from home for me during my medical school experience. It has provided friends, colleagues, support systems, and a network of dedicated individuals who have shown me the power of diversifying medicine. Through events, community service, and networking events, they have created an environment of inclusion for every individual, especially underrepresented minorities on campus. I am grateful for the leadership opportunities such as mentoring high school and undergraduate students, and speaking engagements provided by our SNMA chapter. SNMA has also given me the unique experience of being a part of the National Future Leadership Project, where I serve as a coordinator overseeing the NFLP committee projects. As I continue my medical training, I hope to continue being a part of SNMA and engage in leadership positions.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?
Applying to MD/PhD programs requires proper planning and careful organization. It takes knowing the most important requirements to being a competitive candidate and pursuing them longitudinally throughout your undergraduate years. Research, Research, RESEARCH! Research is at the forefront of what will make you standout as an applicant. It is a significant requirement! You must have a track record of quality research (basic science, clinical medicine or public health, etc...) done for least a combination of 2 years to become considered a competitive applicant. This is what separates an MD applicant from an MD/PhD applicant. The rest of the requirements (prerequisite courses, good grades, MCAT, clinical experience, and community service) are the same.
Did you take some time off before medical school? If so, what did you do during that time?
After graduating on May 2014, I traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for a month to do a service-learning trip. During this 5-week humanitarian mission from May 19 to June 14, I engaged in service learning outreach projects at FILSECCAM Schools, where I helped deliver English, Chemistry, Math and Biology lessons to elementary, high school and university students. Among the lessons, I taught the students and teachers how to properly use a microscope and a balance beam weight scale. From June 2014 to June 2016, I enrolled as a trainee in the NIH-funded Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM). As a PREP Scholar, I worked in Dr. Mahalia Desruisseaux’s laboratory in the Department of Pathology and Medicine exploring neurovascular pathogenesis associated with Trypanosoma cruzi infection. Through the AECOM graduate department, I took graduate courses every semester, and joined the AECOM graduate student committee’s events planning committee where I help plan social events for the PhD and MD/PhD students. I shadowed with the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) Continuity Clinic every Thursday at Jacobi Medical Center and I volunteer as a patient advocate with Einstein Community Health Outreach (ECHO) Free Clinic on Saturdays in order to enhance my clinical skills.
Do you have any passions outside of school? If so, what are they?
To me, traveling offers an insightful cultural value unwritten in textbooks. It has enabled me to meet new people and to immerse myself in learning their customs, habits and traditions. While in Brazil and Spain, I was able to bond with new friends through lessons in the Portuguese and Spanish language, respectively. There is also an enriching sensation in trying local foods from the gumbo in New Orleans, Paella in Valencia to the attieke a poisson (Cassava and Fish) of Abidjan. Traveling provides a great sense of euphoria. It is an avenue to finding tranquility and escaping from mundane tasks. I can never forget the adrenaline rush of zip lining over the jungle canopy in Dominican Republic, successfully navigating the city of Paris, canoeing in the coral reef park in Key West, or running from bulls in Pamplona. Such experiences evoke feelings of thrill and joy in life’s endless adventures. Traveling to foreign countries promotes service: the beam of satisfaction within from helping build playgrounds for children in Uganda to teaching English to middle school children in Haiti. I discovered a new love for gardening during my assigned role of planting a vegetable garden for a primary school in Uganda. Traveling is also a unique way of bolstering one’s career development. Seeing the world provided me with a plethora of advanced educational tools and resources. I was able to do basic science research in Brazil and Spain. I was able to form networks with scientists and doctors in many areas of the world.