Beating the Odds
For Brittany Taylor, a fourth-year medical student at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCOM-Arkansas), the road to becoming a physician has been anything but smooth. Thanks to a lot of hard work, perseverance, and mentors who have invested in her, Taylor will earn the title of “doctor” in May 2023, and she couldn’t be more grateful.
“To be on the cusp of graduating from medical school, it’s a little shocking to me, considering where I’ve come from,” Taylor says. “I’ve had a lot to overcome. My neighborhood and my surroundings did not say, ‘Hey, you should be a doctor.’ It was my internal motivation. It’s been difficult, but it’s just a matter of how much you want it. I’ve dreamed of being a physician for a long time, and this step is a little surreal.”
Taylor was raised in Monticello, Ark., where she experienced disadvantages like poverty and inadequate resources in her community. It was around the age of 10 that she developed a dream of becoming a physician.
“Growing up, I didn’t really see any representation of me in medicine,” Taylor says. “Even at a young age, I knew that there were real needs in my community, and I was aware of the disparities. My family and neighbors were suffering from a lot of preventable diseases, and I felt the best way I could help people in a meaningful way was to become a doctor.”
Taylor earned her biology degree from Philander-Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. She became a single mother while in college but found the balance between motherhood and her academics to thrive.
She spent a year as a research assistant at Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center before heading to Jonesboro to study at NYITCOM-Arkansas. Taylor returned to Central Arkansas for her clinical rotations, unsure of exactly what specialty she planned to pursue. During her final rotation of her third year, that decision became abundantly clear thanks, in large part, to a compassionate preceptor.
Abeer Washington, M.D., a psychiatrist with Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and the Rice Clinic in Little Rock, showed Taylor the tremendous opportunity that exists in the mental health sector.
“As a Black female physician, Dr. Washington gave me a connection that I always wanted,” Taylor says. “She talked to me and mentored me and gave me such a great experience in my psychiatry rotation. The patient population was just an instant connection for me as well. I want to be able to provide that medical care while helping people deal with some of the unique challenges life throws at us.”
Taylor wants to become a community psychiatrist and practice in her home state, where the needs are significant. She will perform her psychiatry residency at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa and plans to return to Arkansas after she finishes her training.
“There’s a shortage there, and it’s only increased since the pandemic,” says Taylor. “I believe that transformation happens in the community much more so than in the hospital. It’s about going out to people and giving them a sense of hope.”
While Taylor’s upbringing presented some unique challenges, it also helped her develop compassion for the people she plans to care for as a physician and gave her a unique perspective that will help her connect with them.
“My compassion comes from not having certain things,” she says. “I know how that feels. I have an instant ability to connect with people in those situations because I’ve experienced a lack of resources. That’s why I love rural communities; because I know how it feels to be left out a little. When you’re in a small town, you kind of have to pinch and pull and rely on each other. I want to practice in a smaller community because of how I relate to those patient populations.”
Taylor is grateful for the support she received at NYITCOM, where she again found invaluable mentors that helped her navigate her path to becoming a physician.
“NYITCOM was the best school I could have chosen because of the support I received during times when I just wasn’t sure if I was going to remain in medical school,” Taylor says. “(Former assistant professor of clinical medicine) Dr. Ronald Only was key in ensuring I’d push through. He was able to personalize his experience in medical school. He encouraged me that it was going to get better, and he pushed me to be resilient. It’s a tough journey, but I’m thankful I’ve been able to push through and achieve it.”