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A similar search for a fit befell Usman Hameedi, who felt torn between his interest in medicine and a love of poetry. “There’s science and there is humanity,” he muses, “and they are seen as a dichotomy. Ah, but to combine them both—that would be the beauty.”
And he is trying for that combination, considering a career as a science writer, or the new field of narrative medicine, in which patients tell or write stories as a way to heal.
Gliding into the Future
Four years may not have been enough exploration time for most posse scholars. A surprising six of 10 in this high-achieving group say they plan to take a year or two off after they graduate, the so-called “glide year(s).” While that was not exactly what Epstein envisioned when he proposed the posse as a means to retain diversity in the sciences, gliding is now a common practice between bachelor’s and graduate degrees, and he is not worried that his posse students are gliding into the sunset.
“It actually makes a great deal of educational sense to do something different for a year or two after college instead of plunging right into further education,” he says. “It shows great maturity.”
Gliding is becoming more popular for students who want time to figure out what they want to do or to boost their résumés with job skills, community service, research, or clinical hours, says Godsoe.
For science posse members, there is something more. Many, when younger, did not have the exposure or resources to hunt for alternatives to a medical career. And once that door to exploration opened at Brandeis, posse members wanted to keep it open longer in preparation for doing something big.
"All of them have the potential to make some big impact on whatever they do because they are very strong, and very thoughtful, and very, very determined."
But for those for whom a medical or science degree is certain, the science training itself may open the door opener to success.
“A person is very fortunate to be good at science because science can be applied to so many things,” says posse member Gloriya Nedler. “It doesn’t always work the other way around. So having the science background is like starting at the top.”
With a strong interest in neuroscience, Nedler will apply to medical schools this June. In the meantime, she’s been offered a full-time position at Harvard Medical School for the coming year to lead a study of observed disparities in the advancement of women of color in academic medicine.
“All of them have the potential to make some big impact on whatever they do,” says biophysicist Susannah Gordon-Messer, who mentored the science posse for two years. “Because they are very strong, and very thoughtful, and very, very determined.
Hameedi, for example, plans to take a year or two off, possibly to travel. He learned in a class that schizophrenia affects Japanese differently than Americans, which prompted his curiosity to understand how culture can affect the course of mental disorders. He hopes to bring that knowledge of diversity and disease to his work in medical school—and transform medical care for people overlooked by the American medical system.
While no one can guarantee that he or the other five gliders will actually follow through with their plans for a higher degree in science—and more—everyone is betting on them.
As other posses follow suit, says Hameedi, the group is proud of what they accomplished. “We set the bar really high.”