Senila Yasmin, M25, completed the Teachers and High School Students (TAHSS) program at Tufts School of Medicine in 2014 and recently returned to the program as a medical student instructor
Growing up north of Boston, Senila Yasmin loved going to the pediatrician, where she was thrilled to get up close and personal with the bevy of tools available to her physician.
Her interest in medicine and science grew as she did, and as early as middle school, she enrolled in human anatomy courses and participated in programs to build her understanding of science and medicine.
One such program was the Teachers and High School Students program (TAHSS) at Tufts University School of Medicine, where Yasmin was a program participant as a rising junior in 2014. The pipeline program is one of several offered by the school with the goal of introducing students from underrepresented backgrounds to medicine and the sciences.
Now, a second-year medical student at Tufts, Yasmin, M25, was inspired to mentor TAHSS students as a student instructor in the summer 2022 program.
“I had the opportunity to come full circle and be on the other side of it now and tell those students, ‘Hey, I was in your shoes not too long ago, and I'm here now, and a living example to tell you that you can do this,” Yasmin said. “I needed to hear those words, too, when I was in their position.”
A Transformative Tufts Experience
As a Wakefield Memorial High School sophomore, Yasmin discovered the TAHSS program just in the nick of time.
“I found out about it a week before the application deadline, and luckily my school put together a recommendation for me and my transcript rather quickly,” Yasmin said. “My dad hand delivered my application the day of the deadline because it wasn't going to arrive in time.”
After an interview process with TAHSS Program Manager Marlene Jreaswec, Yasmin was one of 24 students selected to participate in the rigorous curriculum that summer, during which she assisted a family medicine physician, saw patients with him, and sat in on third-year didactic sessions for family medicine students.
“I really got a feel for what it’s like to be in clinic and what it’s like to be a medical student,” Yasmin remembered. “And having that insight early on was helpful. I definitely wanted to pursue medicine, but I didn't know if I’d have the support to get there because I'm a first-generation student.”
Yasmin’s parents are Pakistani immigrants who she says worked incredibly hard to help their children build solid lives. When it came time to consider a career in medicine, Yasmin was torn between finding a job that would provide immediate support to her family or pursuing the field that had captivated her for years.
“Thankfully I have been able to dedicate the time to my studies in medicine,” Yasmin said. “I think the TAHSS program helped me realize there are resources available for students who come from low-income backgrounds and for students who are first gen, who don't necessarily have any connections to medicine.”
Before enrolling in the TAHSS program, diversity wasn’t something Yasmin noticed in the medical field, which made her question if she belonged in that space.
“When I was younger, I thought ‘maybe I'm being too ambitious,’” Yasmin said. “I didn’t know many first-generation, Pakistani-Americans in medical school. But programs like TAHSS and the mentors I've made over the years have encouraged me to believe it is okay to want more and to continue to pursue that. There doesn't have to be a hard stop somewhere.”
When the opportunity presented itself for Yasmin to become a student instructor for the TAHSS program, there was no question of whether she would take on the role. She felt compelled to pass along the resources and information that helped her in her journey, and in doing so was rewarded by seeing how far she had come since she was a program participant.
“There are no words to describe how important this was for me,” Yasmin emphasized. “It can be really hard in medical school when you're going through the day-to-day grind, but moments like these remind me why I'm here, why I'm doing this.”
Back in Boston
After two years as a virtual program due to COVID-19, TAHSS returned in-person on the Boston Health Sciences campus this summer as a place to forge deep connections and help high school students find their paths. Emiko Kamiya was one of those students.
“Being on a medical campus was exciting, because for most of us, it was our first time in that type of space,” Kamiya, a junior at Boston Latin Academy, said. “It's really cool to be around a group of people who care about surgeries and technological advancements.”
Kamiya, who is studying abroad in Germany for the academic year 2022-23, plans to take a pre-med track in college. She was matched in a TAHSS dental medicine mentorship, an area of medicine she had never considered. Throughout the summer, Kamiya and her fellow mentees were able to practice in the Tufts Dental Simulation Clinic, where they did hands-on exercises including fillings and impressions.
She admitted she was naïve to how dental health can impact the rest of the body, and now that she knows more about the impacts poor dental health can have, she has a new appreciation for dental medicine and for the other students in the program.
If she could give one piece of advice to future TAHSS participants, Kamiya would encourage the students to embrace trying new things.
“Ask questions, approach people, and do your best to make connections while you’re in the program,” Kamiya said. “It’s a unique environment with so many people who were willing to talk to us, and it was really beneficial for all of us.”