Physician pipeline
Members of the inaugural BA/MD Scholars Program cohort reflect on their experiences as they get ready for their residency training

They’ve been waiting—and working—seven years for this milestone, and it’s finally arrived. The students in the first cohort of the University of Minnesota BA/MD Scholars Program are becoming doctors.

Launched in 2017, the BA/MD Scholars Program provides a unique pathway for a small cohort of high-achieving high school seniors to become physicians. The program invites students from rural areas and medically underserved communities, first-generation college students, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who express an interest in meeting the health care needs of Minnesota’s diverse patient population to apply. 

These students—buoyed by social support from their classmates, academic support from their advisors, and scholarship support from the Blythe Brenden Scholarship for BA/MD Joint Admissions Scholars—complete a bachelor’s degree from the U’s College of Liberal Arts and then move directly into the four-year Medical School program.  

As the program’s first students receive their MDs, they reflect on their experience at the U of M and the impact of scholarship support has had on their lives. 

Miller Balley
Hometown: St. Paul, Minn. 
Undergraduate major: Biology, society, and the environment
Residency: Family medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine 

What she’s learned about herself:
“I have learned that I am much more adaptable than I thought that I was. Many medical situations I have experienced so far are new to me and require me to adapt quickly in the moment, whether in a conversation with a new patient or working with a physician for the first time. This strengthened flexibility and adaptability will benefit me greatly as a family medicine physician.”

On putting her education into action: 
“I plan to use the knowledge gained about social determinants of health and the health care system to allow me to better advocate for and with my patients. Being trained at a university that values primary care inspired me to pursue family medicine, and I am very excited to begin my career.” 

Madeleine Berg
: Cottage Grove, Minn. 
Undergraduate major: Physiology
Transitional year residency: Broadlawns Medical Center (Iowa) 
Residency: Physical medicine and rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education 

What she’s learned about herself: 
“It has been so fun to see my confidence grow as I have progressed through the program. I remember most of my high school parent-teacher conferences mentioning that I could speak up more. Seven years later, I find myself strongly advocating for patients even as a medical student, and I look back and see all the small moments of growth that added up to get me here.”

The importance of scholarships:
“Being awarded this scholarship gave me a greater sense of purpose at the University of Minnesota. I took great pride in studying physiology and medicine at the University of Minnesota, and when my schoolwork was challenging, I often thought of the people behind the scholarship who wanted to see me succeed. I felt like I had someone in my corner, cheering me on and affirming that the work I was doing would make a positive impact someday.”

Alainna Cavin
: Brooklyn Park, Minn. 
Undergraduate major: Biology, society, and environment
Residency plans: Internal medicine  

How her interests have changed: 
“Over the years, my interests evolved and changed many times! In fact, I found it ironic that some of the specialties I have enjoyed the most were the rotations I was most dreading. I have been able to find enjoyment and interest in nearly every setting and am happy I kept an open mind.”

The importance of scholarships:
“My time at the University of Minnesota would have looked a lot different without this scholarship. Imposter syndrome is real—there were many times I doubted my belonging in medical school or my ability to complete training. Having this scholarship … served the dual purpose of lessening the financial burden while providing assurance in my abilities. When my own doubts persisted, it was encouraging to think there was a group of people who selected me because they believed I had what it took.”

Victor Furman
: Minneapolis, Minn. 
Undergraduate major: Human physiology
Residency: Family medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School

How his interests have changed:  
“I initially thought about going into pediatrics, but after starting medical school I realized I was also interested in adult medicine and considered going into MedPeds [internal medicine and pediatrics]. But then I realized I also enjoyed OB … eventually I settled on family medicine so I could do a little bit of everything.”  

The importance of scholarships:
“It allowed me to focus on my studies while significantly reducing the burden of the financial components that make it difficult for many to pursue medicine in the first place, especially someone coming from a background such as mine.” 

Amera Hassan
: Blaine, Minn. 
Undergraduate major: Human physiology
Residency: Emergency medicine, University of Chicago Medical School 

What she’s learned about herself:
“I learned a lot about diseases and how to alleviate the anguish they cause, but I mostly learned about people, and how we are a reflection of everyone we meet. We connect with the emotions and experiences we see in one another, and that creates a safer world. Myself particularly, I learned that I’m capable of the kindness I want to see in the world, and that it takes intentionality to maintain that kindness.”  

The importance of scholarships:
“It not only alleviated immense financial pressure—it also inspired me to dedicate to paying forward every cent I have ever received in scholarship support, because I know how much it can do for students.”

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