February 08, 2021

Desmond Lowe: Finding community

The Michigan experience provides opportunities to find your community and serve the larger community

Three medical students at University of Michigan

From left: Desmond with classmates Tochukwu Ndukwe and Emmanuel Quaye at a medical school event.

Fourth-year student Desmond (Dez) Lowe is rounding out his time at Michigan Medical School with anesthesiology residency program interviews, an upcoming Match Day in March, and commencement in May. Here he shares advice for prospective students, insights into the strength and diversity of the clinical training at Michigan, and how he's found success and support throughout his four years.    

Looking back, what is one thing you wish you would have known before or while going through the medical school application process?

I wish I would have known the importance of speaking to current medical students at the schools that I was interested in. Hearing from current medical students is extremely important because their stressors and concerns may become yours one day if you choose their program for medical school.

It’s also very important to hear how administration responds to the concerns of its students. I was very fortunate in that the administration at Michigan has always been extremely welcoming and open to hear its students’ voices and they frequently implement changes in response to any concerns. 

As a medical student who is from a background that is underrepresented in medicine, how have you found community and support while at UMMS? Any advice for prospective URiM students?

I have found a very strong support system through the student organizations that I have been a part of since my first year of medical school. At Michigan there is a student organization for everyone, and they are a great way to make a large medical school feel smaller and more intimate. I have met some of my best friends in medical school in a few of our student organizations, and I would highly recommend any incoming medical student consider joining a community with those who they self-identify with and their fellow allies. 

What have been your favorite aspects of the Michigan curriculum?

Although it can be intense at times, I enjoyed the frequent quizzing and the accelerated curriculum at Michigan. Being able to complete my core rotations and care for patients during my second year of medical school gave me more than enough time to explore specialties and find the one that was best for me. The Branch years also allow for a large amount of elective time to explore various interests, take some vacation time, and explore fields that I may never work in again after medical school.  

As an M4 nearing residency, how would you describe the caliber of the clinical training you’ve received at Michigan?

I would argue that the education and training I have received at Michigan is second to none. I believe the experiences, complex patients, and vast resources that are at our disposal during medical school has allowed me to be as ready for residency as possible. I have also been very surprised by how desired Michigan medical students are when applying to residency. Across the country, institutions know that Michigan trains excellent clinical students, and it really opened up doors for me that I previously never could have imagined.

Could you describe any opportunities, curricular and/or non-curricular, you’ve taken advantage of that have allowed you to see a broad range of patients while at Michigan?

Training at such an advanced hospital like Michigan Medicine has its own benefits when it comes to the patient populations that it serves. Many patients from all over the state and the country come here for their care including those who are transferred from nearby hospitals that do not have the resources to care for them. This alone is a benefit because you get exposure to rare and complex illnesses that you otherwise may not have gotten at another institution.

I have also participated in our Student Run Free Clinic (which you can get involved in as early as first year), and this clinic specifically cares for an underserved and uninsured community. Similarly, during some of the core clinical rotations, students can request to be placed in clinics or hospitals that on a daily basis may have a much greater proportion of underserved and uninsured patients, or even rural patients, than our main University hospital.

Tell us about your Capstone for Impact project and why it is meaningful to you.

My Capstone for Impact project examined some of the underlying causes for the COVID-19 disparities that emerged over the past year between minority and non-minority populations. I was able to work with my mentor and colleagues to administer a nationwide survey to both patients and physicians during the pandemic. Through the support of my colleagues and through the utilization of some of Michigan’s resources, I was able to get a publication in a national journal pointing out where we as health care providers can work to improve and diminish these disparities across the country.

What do you like to do outside of the med school?

FLOATING!!! By far my favorite activity during the warmer months is floating on the Huron River that runs through Ann Arbor. Several of my classmates and I frequently go floating down the river, chatting about life, listening to music, and drinking our favorite beverages of choice while soaking up the sun, and it is always an incredible time!

How have you been able to find balance or focus on well-being while in medical school?

When I first started medical school, I struggled to keep up with all of the studying that was required and initially I neglected all of the things that I previously enjoyed doing. However, I quickly learned the importance of time-management and maintaining healthy wellness habits and started making sure I incorporated bits and pieces of them into all of my days. The urge to study more will always be there, but I’ve found it’s extremely important to work in some time for yourself during medical school regardless of what that looks like for you.

Make time to call your friends and family, and make time to take care of yourself. You’ll find that studying and learning becomes significantly easier. 

Why has Michigan been a good fit for you?

Michigan has been a good fit for me because I feel it has ultimately set me up to become a great doctor. The community here has been amazing, the friends I have made will be life-long friends, and I could not have asked for a more easily accessible faculty and administration. I have always felt supported, and I have not once regretted my decision to come to Michigan for medical school. There’s so much to do and get involved with at Michigan, and I feel I was truly able to shape an experience that was unique to me while also fostering a great learning/training environment.