This interview was conducted with Laura Minton by SpringBoarders Azalea McRae, Sela Trimm, and Anna McCormack. Laura Minton is currently a medical school student attending The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) working towards becoming a physician. These questions were asked by the interviewers to Laura for the readers of GirlSpring. In this interview, we talked about the COVID-19 pandemic, medical school/women in STEM, and motivation for young girls.
After graduating from Gadsden City High School, I received the full ride Academic Presidential scholarship at Auburn University, where I worked as a Resident Assistant (RA) for 3 years, performed biochemistry research and made a publication on an enzymatic variant of M. tuberculosis, volunteered at a nursing home/food bank/low income school, spent time medically volunteering in Brazil, shadowed many physicians, and went skydiving. I graduated in May 2020 with the designation of summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA in Biomedical Sciences with University Honors as a College of Science/Mathematics Dean’s Medalist. I now attend UAB School of Medicine, and I am currently planning to be a radiologist or OBGYN physician.
The intrinsic reason I have chosen to work so hard and invest so much time is that after graduating from Gadsden City High School (with over 1/3 of students below the poverty line), meeting residents from all socioeconomic levels through my RA position, working as a medical scribe and meeting patients in rural/low-income settings, volunteering at the nursing home/tutoring/food bank, and spending time in Brazil, I have witnessed many inequalities. My advice to other young women would be to spend time serving and listening to others in every aspect of life and believe the validity of their life experiences. Then amplify their voices and make systemic change! You don’t have to travel 10,000 miles to see these imbalances; they are right here in Alabama. Once you see the inequalities, you can’t not see them anymore.
I have a passion for serving people, particularly the underprivileged. As cliche as it sounds, I really do want to change the world, and we can!!! I’ll work as hard as I can to do that using discipline, compassion, and empathy. I’ll always hold a place in my heart for all the people who impacted my life in Gadsden and at Auburn University, and their advice and their impact on my life experiences will guide me through medical school for the next four years and beyond. I am always here if anyone wants to contact me and share their stories, fears, thoughts, dreams, or anything in between.
Q: How has the pandemic furthered your passion for helping others?
A: “All in the same storm but not in the same boat” is something I have recognized through these times. It is even more important in our era to listen to other people’s stories/experiences and validate them and trust their thought process. The COVID-19 pandemic, the year 2020, social media, and the ability of the internet have allowed us to open Pandora’s box of ever-changing circumstances. All of these unprecedented conditions, mixed together at once, opened so many challenges but also MORE windows of opportunity for compassion.
A lot of being a physician is being a detective and listening and learning and I have truly expanded my skills with these topics throughout these times. For me, it is such a unique beginning of medical school. These online meetings and sessions with patients and a doctor include society. I am now more able to hear from physicians and scientists doing international groundbreaking work first hand through a video format, as well as interview others who had experiences with COVID or with being in the healthcare system during 2020. The pandemic obviously has medical implications that would further my passion thru medicine as a physician, but I also experienced a lot of furthering my passion through hearing different experiences as a Resident Assistant in college.
Overall, the pandemic has allowed me to hear so many different perspectives of unprecedented challenges, and in a non-judgmental way I can use my gifts and my talents to help as I know how which is through medicine, intellectual pursuit, and listening to others’ experiences and believing them, finding ways to improve people’s quality of life, and being open to believing new perspectives.
Q: How have you continued to stay academically motivated over the years?
A: Part of it is intrinsic. I am the type of student who thinks I want to be a different type of physician almost every day because they each seem so interesting. Knowing that I am not learning these things just to make an A on an exam, but each of these topics has actual medical results. We can all actually implement this information to change inequalities or alleviate pain in the world.
Another thing that would be huge in my motivation is to lose this ego where you have to be perfect at everything. Perfection destroys motivation; instead, reach for growth. Growth is motivating. Growth involves failure AND success. Growth isn’t just upwards (towards perfection), it’s also outwards (towards becoming understanding, compassionate, loving, sacrificial, all of which include failure and emotions and learning). Learning and listening to others continuously opens my eyes to all of these different perspectives. To take a second to step back and recognize the scale of time and objects allows me to absorb all the important and attempt to push past the unimportant.
Q: You have experimented across scientific fields, traveled, and participated in many different service projects. How did these experiences help you realize that the medical field, specifically radiology or gynecology/obstetrics, would allow you to give back the most?
A: Medicine and physiology perfectly intertwine the art being human (experiencing emotion/ pain/ joy, creativity) with science (methodical, trustworthy, logical). A lot of realizing what I wanted to spend my life doing was meeting myself and getting comfortable with knowing who I am in my fully charged state.
A lot of this goes back to who I was internally when I was at the age of 5. I remember asking my preschool teachers for worksheets when we were on the playground. I’ve always been so intrigued by learning and understanding something new. I am thoughtful, sensitive, intentional, and responsible. I think medicine was a perfect connection for me between who I am and who I want to be.
I also love Alabama. I love my hometown Gadsden, [my] college town of Auburn, and now where I attend medical school, Birmingham. I also love traveling but I am proud to have my roots here. For a long time growing up, I felt a little embarrassed about being from AL, but then I realized in my experiences, AL has some of the most progressive-thinking, kindest, bravest people—we just need to stand up and use our strengths to improve what we didn’t have when we were younger.
GirlSpring already seems to me as if you’re perfectly doing just this. You’re inspiring; while working for others, you improve yourself.
Q: Because you are so passionate about amplifying the voices of the underprivileged, in the process, do you ever feel discouraged or cynical? If so, how do you combat this mentality?
A: Yes, especially with it recently being such a pivotal election year. People sometimes say we shouldn’t bring politics into conversations, but what about when the politics involve basic human rights or healthcare? Imagine the person you love the most, and they need something medically— you’d do anything to help them right? Well, what if you couldn’t afford it? What should money be able to decide? Answering that would take hours or maybe just one sentence. It’s discouraging to hear people spread false news or to hear people make statements without empathy.
Q: As most are aware, medical school is an extremely challenging part of one’s education, assuming they choose to pursue a medical career. What advice would you give to young women who want to follow a similar path, but are hesitant because of this?
A: Among this journey, there are years of investment, tears and failures, and also achievements. Ultimately, my advice is to not put your worth in a number, and at the same time, work towards what you believe is your passion. If you strive for these things, then it doesn’t feel as much like work. If you are too unhappy, life is too short and the world is too big to stay in that bubble. Have the courage to make changes in your life path when you need/want to. I had one semester particularly with major lows and highs, and it was exhausting and unhealthy. From that, I learned to not strive towards perfectionism, but instead strive towards growth. This goes along with having outlets for balance, such as the things that you love or bring you peace.
Q: What are some ways teens interested in STEM careers can take advantage of their time and take proactive steps to prepare for future endeavors?
A: I would break this answer into 3 parts.
First, Science: take challenging courses, work to actually understand the science and the math, not memorize answers or even pathways to get an answer but actually understand why something works as it does.
Second, Experience: shadow or volunteer in situations where you can gain experience, secret is everyone is figuring things out, nobody has it all figured out. Don’t be intimidated!
Third, People: tell people who you admire that you admire them [and] ask to hear their stories about what led them to their passion. Learn from others!
Q: Any graduate-level education is bound to be demanding, so how have you been able to establish a healthy work-life balance?
A: You have to pour into yourself and invest mentally, physically, and emotionally into yourself in order to be able to pour out to others. Scheduling in time for what refills me specifically may not re-fill someone else, which is completely normal. Spending time learning about who you are, allowing yourself to change, but also always staying true to who you are.
Thank you so much to Laura Minton for working with GirlSpring. You are inspiring young women every day, including all of us. We can’t wait to see what you continue to achieve in your future.
Interested in STEM? Read this article from another GirlSpring contributor.
Learn more about UAB’s School of Medicine here.