Join us on this episode with Makeen Yasar and host Tyra Parrish, MPH where we explore Makeen's journey through the healthcare field and the challenges associated with fighting for equitable healthcare. With his background in supporting underrepresented student populations, and Tyra's background in giving marginalized groups a bigger voice in public health, this episode is full of exciting insights that you won't want to miss.
Reimagining OEHS with Makeen Yasar (Part 1)
Reimagining OEHS with Makeen Yasar (Part 2)
Transcript for Do the Change Podcast: Reimagining OEHS with Makeen Yasar
Part 1: Do the Change with Makeen Yasar
Tyra: Hi, y’all Welcome to the of the Change podcast where challenging and reimagining the field of OEHS So this podcast focuses on highlighting upcoming leaders in their fields, how they got to where they are today with a special focus on the field of occupational health, environmental health. But we're also going to be talking about other fields as well. So yeah, we're talking about the hills and the valleys of the speaker's journey and also get some insight into some nontraditional paths into the field or have more nontraditional experiences while getting into the field. My name is Tyra Parrish and I'm a recent graduate from the MPH program here at Cal, and our guest speaker for this episode is Makeen Yasar. Did i say your last name
Makeen: Yes you did, Yasar.
Tyra: Awesome! Okay, so Makeen is a radical builder, change agent, poet, writer and future physician who will be attending Charles Drew College of Medicine as part of their inaugural class for the school's M.D. program. Which is dope, Class of 2027. So Makeen has roots in L.A. by way of his ancestor’s migration from Kansas City and Saint Louis, Missouri. So he was born in Pasadena, raised in Palmdale, California, sorry, Pasadena is also in California. I’m from SoCal so I just forgot to say that. These are both California um and Makeen settled down in L.A. in his late teens and attended Loyola... Loyola Marymount University, LMU um where he earned his B.S. in Health and Human Sciences with a minor in African-American Studies. Um Makeen was also a Coordinator for the Office of Equity Inclusion Diversity at Kaiser Permanente. Bernhard J. Tyson School of Medicine. That is very long for notes. And that guy is great.
Makeen: He was fantastic. He was fantastic
Tyra:Yeah. Long. Um Makeen also helped lead the development of the Institutions Pathway Initiative, to support students underrepresented underserved in medicine. And so before his medical education, Makeen was an inaugural. There's a lot of inaugurals in his bio y’all. He was an inaugural youth Justice Fellow for the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, where he led organizing work and community based research, analysis and justice that centered campaign development alongside Black, Brown and Southeast Asian students to decriminalize youth and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Makeen is a student assembly representative of the National Health Professionals Research and Advocacy nonprofit. The Social Mission Alliance and is the founder, co-director of the Umoja Health Project, a volunteer initiative Bringing Health, Career Health Career Exposure Sorry to youth of color. And additionally, Makeen also serves on the board of directors for the Youth Justice Coalition, an organization dedicated to decriminalization of systems impacted youth and their families as well.
Tyra: The abolition of our school systems. That's a lot. There's a lot of inaugurals, there are a lot of firsts, but I'm not mad at that. Makeen, welcome to our podcast.
Makeen: Thank you so much for having me, Tyra. I really appreciate it and real sorry. I thought you were going to cut something down for me.
Makeen: I didn’t know you're going to say it all.
Tyra: I saw too many inaugurals in there for me to be like, Which inaugural do I cut like? So I just went, Imma read the whole thing. And however long it takes is however long it takes, but yeah, I was like, this which one, these all are dope. So yeah, that's what happens when you have a lot of firsts. They all get announced. So um
Makeen: yeah. So I guess so. Greatly appreciate it. Very honored and humbled
Tyra: It's. It's all good. Okay, so first we’re gonna start with just a check in question. So your check-in question for this episode is describe your dream home.
Makeen: Ooo. Dream home. Dream home Ummm that’s a tough one because I'm you know, what’s funny, I'm not really like picky when it comes to homes because I know some friends who are like, oh, like, you know, my my dream home is to live in the Hollywood Hills
Makeen: and on a beachside villa, you know, off the
Makeen: coast of Malibu. duh duh duh duh duh
Makeen: I mean, for me, it's just like a home is I don't know if this is gonna sound cheesy or not, but home is just really whereever my community is rooted in.
Makeen: Um and so I think that a dream home for me is just a place where, you know, I mean, are there things in my home that I would like? Yeah, like I would
Makeen: like it to be big enough for like me and my family where we get to have our own rooms and spaces.
Makeen: But ideally would be in L.A., particularly I’d really want a home in the neighborhood or close to the neighborhood where my mom and family from all my mom's side of the family grew up in. So like
Makeen: Baldwin Hills area.
Makeen: And so, you know, it's not a beachside villa view, but it is one of the why, if you've ever been to L.A., if anyone who's listening has ever been to like Baldwin Hills, like once you're up in that
Makeen: neighborhood, like this Vista, View Park area, like the views that you get in um of L.A. are just some of the most beautiful in the city. And so
Makeen: I think that's the only that's the only thing I would need is to be located in that area because it's familiar. It's, you know,
Makeen: somewhere you know, somewhere where my family and my grandparents, my cousins grew up in. If I could just have a home in that neighborhood, I would be content. It doesn't obviously, in terms of specifics, like I don't necessarily want a Man Cave like I don't need
Makeen: like maybe a hoop out front
Tyra: Yeah that would be cool. Yeah, yeah.
Makeen: Oh, you know, I wouldn't even need a pool, to be honest with you. But I'm really simple. I'm simple when it comes to material things, as long as it's, like, located in that neighborhood, that would
Makeen: be great for me.
Tyra: Okay, That's. I mean, I'm. I'm not mad at that cause. I was thinking, I was like, I'm kind of the same where it's like, as long as I'm close ish to, like, friends and family, then I'll be like happy. Like I'll be content. um If I want specifics, I just need like a backyard because I plan on having a dog and that's where they gonna be that's where they gone be, outside. So I feel like that's like something where I just need a backyard that's just a decent size where like dogs can run around kids can run around um. Like I grew up where we, like, made, like, made our own waterslides. That literally was just like something that was slick enough for water.
Makeen: Oh I think I know what you’re talking about
Tyra: Where we just ran and slide on it.
Makeen: Like a tarp.
Tyra: Like a tarp? Yeah, we do a tarp, get it a little wet with the water hose, and like, our backyard is big enough for us to just run and slide. And that was like our makeshift water slide because we didn't have one. So…
Makeen: Yeah that’s a vibe, we used to be doing that when we were kids too . So yeah.
Tyra: Yeah, Yeah. That's the, that's the goal. But yeah, anyways, I'm going to do a hard shift to
Makeen: A hard shift
Tyra: to our podcast. very hard shift for that. So walk us through just your journey into the field of medicine. So what's the dream always medicine? And were there any pivotal moments or experiences that kind of shape your decision into medicine?
Makeen: Yeah, definitely. More happy to share. So for me, like you mentioned so gracious for we have.
Tyra: Yeah all those
Makeen: Uh literally all the perks
Makeen: So uh I was raised in Palmdale, California, like you mentioned,
Makeen: but my mom's side of the family is from Los Angeles and when I was growing up, you know, my parents were very affirming in terms of, oh, you could be anything that you want when you grow up. You know, you could be the president, you could be a lawyer, you could be a doctor. And so,
Makeen: it was never one of those things where they were forcing me into a certain direction or trying to guide me in a certain direction. My dad is an electrician, has been around for all of our lives, 30 plus years, and my mom is a social worker. And so, you know, in terms of like careers and occupations, you know, I had pretty broad ideas when I was like really young in terms of what I wanted to be like. I wanted to be a racecar driver like I wanted to be.
Tyra: That’s cool!
Makeen: It was just cause of Hot Wheels It wasn’t nothing deep
Tyra: Okay, turn left. That's all you have to do is turn left. Turn left
Makeen: Turn left, turn left. I wanted to be an actor. At one point I was actually involev in like um my like a... at my elementary school, in middle school and a lot of theater productions and like acting lessons. So I was very into that um but I would say I started to gaining interest in medicine um more subconsciously than anything specifically because when I was growing up, even though we were in Palmdale, which for folks who aren't familiar in terms of Southern California in L.A. County is a small desert suburb that's about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles City. And so even though we lived out there and um when my brother was born, you know, my grandparents um you know were dealing with a lot of chronic health issues. And so we would go from Palmdale down to Los Angeles just about every week and every weekend we'd stay down there for the summers because my mom was the one who was the primary caretaker for them. And what that included, obviously, you know, not only in terms of make sure they were taking their medications and in terms of helping them with their food and diet. Also included just us going to like tons of doctors offices. So, you know, from a cardiologist to the pulmonologist to the rheumatologist know to hospitals and emergency room like we were always constantly in doctors offices growing up um and so, you know, I was always a curious kid. I was always a pretty studious kid. And any time we were in the settings, you know, I would roam about and have questions for the doctors and the nurses or my mom would ask them on my behalf because she's extra like, that
Makeen: would be like teach my baby about the stethoscope.
Tyra: Oh, that's so cute though
Makeen: Yeah. You know, And so even though it was embarrassing for me, then I
Makeen: obviously it planted a seed that would later um come to bear fruit while when I was in high school. So at that time I actually wanted to be a writer heading into my senior year. I love writing. I love.. I write and poetry and spoken word um and at that point I was thinking about journalism, but I ended up taking anatomy and physiology class my senior year in high school, and that was kind of like what influenced me to want to go the premed route or you know pursue medicine, it
Makeen: was just like the fascination that I had in terms of the human body and just how incredible it was that there were all these systems, you know, all these muscles, all these bones, you know, all these organs that were the things that were driving, you know, you know, were that were driving us like the building blocks of life, basically.
Makeen: And that was just fascinating to me. And I had an affinity in terms of studying it, and I always wanted to help people. And based off of the example that my mom has shown in terms of just the care and love that she had shown my grandparents, I was like, okay, how do I return that to the folks that I care about in my life and my community,
Makeen: you know my soul. Alright so to sort of pick up where I left off before I dropped off the call was, that um you know, like I was like I was saying, you know, I learned that I ended up having an affinity towards studying like the human body and having a curiosity, you know? And I always wanted to help people and, you know, similar in the way that my mom had cared for my grandparents and modeled that care in that love. I wanted to be able to give that back to my community to and so, um you know, the to those two pieces, it made sense for me to pursue medicine at that point. And so,
Makeen: like my senior year, I was like, okay, I think this is what I want to do. And that's when I made the commitment. I went to LMU, again studied health and human sciences is when I originally got into LMU I was actually not sure what my major was going to be.But again, I had and this was a theme that was just like constant throughout my education and my life journey. I just had a lot of really great mentors, both those who were older, but also those were like near peer mentors, like people close to my age who were just great influences and support systems for me. And so I was in the summer bridge program for students who were underrepresented in medicine and that my teacher's assistant at the time, she had was health and human sciences major and she was,
Tyra: oh cool
Makeen: yeah, yeah. And she was the one who ended up convincing me to choose that as a major because it was the one major, the one science major that dealt with people. You would get to study
Tyra: Come on
Makeen: the body I was at. I didn't want to study marine animals. I didn't want to.
Makeen: I didn't want to.
Makeen: So you see, you already...
Tyra: I feel attacked. I feel attacked because I feel like I love LMU. I really do. But I think the what it was very unclear that bio versus health and human sciences, where a lot of where a lot of folks were pre-med but were bio majors and didn't realize until it was too late. The health and human sciences actually was best aligned. And you can just kind of take the other biology courses you need for pre-med, so it's really dope that in your path you had someone kind of direct you to the right way, like straight off the bat. Yeah, that's going to be that girl saved you time.
Makeen: She saved me a lot of time big shout out to Marina Marmolejo, who's doing
Makeen: an amazing work on the East Coast, Yale graduate
Makeen: and further master's in public health program. She's absolutely incredible. She actually put me on the right path and I enjoyed my major immensely.
Makeen: and yeah, so that's how I got to LMU. And in terms of, you know, navigating that journey, obviously there were just other instances within my life that continue to affirm me, whether it was in terms of me being in patient care settings and having folks who look like me say that they were glad to see me and that they needed me in this field, or whether it was in terms of, you know, folks in my community and loved ones who were unfortunately, you know, you know, victims of like the medical industrial complex in terms of not having access to resources or access to care in the community. And, you know, we're dealing with health issues that went unaddressed and, you know, that ended up costing them like they were just like multiple steps along my journey that just continue to affirm me like, this is what I want to do.
Makeen: So, yeah, that's how I ended up finding my way towards medicine. But, you know, just in general, my journey took a little longer than just
Makeen: additional, you know, four years and straight into med school. Like there's a lot that happened in between. So…
Tyra: yeah. And I think that like a lot of folks think that medical school is like, oh, four years and then you do, then you go to medical school where it's like, no, actually taking time in between can also like better equip you for medical school and kind of like I don't to say go outside and touch grass. but that's kind of what it is, where it's like go outside and meet people and like, like really like understand what the community is going through because there's also the danger of being too ingrained into academia and not really kind of going outside and just talking to community members and like understanding like what is community health versus kind of like what the institution says is health very different.
Tyra: Yeah. And so was just like transition, just right into I'm so glad to talked about medical school at the end because that is my next question of why did you choose Charles Drew? I feel like I know why but why did you choose Charles Drew? And just in general, for folks who don't know or maybe are listening from like or from different states, but why does Charles Drew hold really significant meaning, particularly in our community, but also like in the West Coast in general?
Makeen: Definitely, yes. So Charles Drew University um big shoutout to CDU. First things first um they were my first choice.
Tyra: Okay period
Makeen: And second thing, they're actually my only choice. And I wasn't mad at that.
Makeen: I was not mad that, you know, the med school application cycle is very rigorous.
Makeen: It is very challenging. It is definitely a you know, albeit there are so many things that you can do to make yourself be a competitive applicant. A lot of it is also timing in terms of when you submit a lot of is based on that application cycle or a year, you know, whether or not you're that fit for a given admissions office in terms of what they think they want a particular applicant to do that year. Right.
Makeen: And, you know, all the same, again, Charles Drew was my first choice. And so I was over the moon when I got the acceptance
Tyra: Love it !
Makeen: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, the reason why CDU was my first choice just to begin with is because they're just a very community based social justice oriented institution. And to give a little bit of context about, CDU so like Charles Drew, or Charles Dr. Charles R. Drew was a black man physician who back in the early 20th century, like early, early 1900s, was credited with founding the first blood bank. He was an incredible um you know intellectual physician, scientist, researcher who had like a deep love and care and desire to want to see Black people succeed and excel in all their endeavors, even through the barriers that face them. um and so Charles Drew University didn't come until some years after his death. He had died an earlier death as a as a young as a younger man, I think close to his forties.
Tyra: Oh wow
Makeen: Don’t quote me on that um but Charles Drew University has a very um interesting history um because it was founded specifically in response to the Watts rebellions of the late sixties. And so for folks who aren't aware back in the 1960s, Los Angeles had. Like I was saying, so Charles Drew University specifically was actually founded in response to the Watts Rebellion back in the late 1960s. And so for folks who aren't aware, the Watts Rebellion uh were a series of rebellions, acts of public defiance back in the sixties that were in response to a lot of public and civil unrest that existed in Los Angeles during the tail end of the civil rights movement, as folks were continuing to experience disenfranchisement and specifically in this incident, um uh there was a incident of police brutality against a group of black men in the Watts area that incited public outcry and rebellion in response to their beating, the violence that was done unto them. And so in response to this moment, um the city um of Los Angeles and the area of Watts there were, there were um like listening sessions done to kind of like assess what the community needs at that time. And one of the things that arose from that in terms of a need that was meant to be met with in regards to health care and the lack of access to health resources.
Makeen: And so from that moment was the founding of Charles R. Drew University and specifically a health professions institution and to give a further distinction, the only historically Black graduate institution on the West Coast. And so given its history, its founding and know founding from a moment, you know, to provide the needs of its community members you know for a historically in a historically black community, Black and Brown communities um you know, Charles Drew University has since been one of um you know the leaders in terms of, you know, providing diverse classes of across health professions from nursing, physician’s assistant and medicine. They had a program specifically with UCLA, which was a joint program. So, you know, historically, since the eighties, Charles Drew University, which if you were to get your M.D. from the school, it was actually through a joint program with UCLA. And so students who went through that program would get their degree from UCLA and Charles Drew. So you would do your first two years, you know, doing your didactic work at UCLA and then your last two years doing majority of your rotation work in terms of clinical rotations, at CDU, And just this past year, um CDU got accreditation to start their own solo
Makeen: independent um medical school program. And so that's the path that I'm going to be apart of
Tyra: Yup. That's another inaugural right there. I'm sorry. It's just like it's just crazy how many inagurals you have, which just shows like you were supposed to be there at that time, which is super cool. So now that you're in medical school before I jump into the tea time with Tyra, how do you like feel? Like, how do you feel after you've now got into medical school?
Makeen: Oh, Tyra. I feel the level of relief that I’v had since getting in.
Makeen: it's been a it's been the biggest weight off my shoulders I've ever felt in my entire life.
Tyra: I love that.
Makeen: I remember when I first got like, when I first got the acceptance. It was just a mixture between like, hysterical laughing and tears, it was...
Makeen: You know, because obviously, you know, like I mentioned the application cycle was so tough and this past year in 2022, in terms of the year that I committed to applying medical school was a really rough year. Personally for me, there was just a lot going on in terms of, you know, responsibilities at work and transitions and, you know, and my job in terms of focusing on employment in and, you know, workload increasing, you know, in terms of like being responsible and, you know, trying to support my family as best as I could. You know, those responsibilities came up. Um, inflation, you know, has not
Makeen: anything cheap at all.
Makeen: come on, come on. Eggs were like $15 at one point. So just trying to make it and, you know, make it, you know, supporting my folks and trying to go on this career journey. It was just a lot all at once Like I had to, you know, work full time while studying for the MCAT. So trying to make time for that with a demanding job . it was difficult and, you know, I just knew it wasn't guaranteed. It wasn't that I ever felt I wasn't meant for medicine.
Makeen: It was just knowing, you know, how difficult it is to get into medical school, especially as someone, you know, underrepresented in the field and as a black man that I wasn't necessarily sure if it would be my time or not.
Makeen: And what. Yeah, yeah. And so once I actually got accepted, it was just really... It’s just been enjoy it. Like, I've been so excited to start school and, you know, people ask me a lot if I'm nervous.
Makeen: And I can't really say that I am.
Makeen: Like, I just been.. cause I’ve waited for this for so long because I finished studying at LMU specifically in 2019. I got my degree officially in 2020 cause I had some extra courses to take. And so I've been out of the LMU for four years now.
Makeen: Um which is wild to say. And Oh my gosh. Wow I’m old. I’m old. I’m old. But it's all in the right time. It's all in the right time. Because like you mentioned before, I wouldn't have half the life experiences I've had if not
Makeen: for me. Take the time to explore what it means to be in community, to um you know to be present in different organizing spaces, to learn more about who I am as a person and an individual, and to work professionally in a space where I gained a lot of skills and understanding of what and how academic medicine institutions operate. And so it's just relief and gratitude where the things that I felt and I still just am excited because you know I'm at the point of like having this conversation. I'm two weeks away now from starting my orientation
Tyra: Oh geez, that's they didn’t even let the ink dry they just said, okay, so now you start. I mean, it's like oh, that's just I am I'm so happy for you because I can only imagine like that relief or feeling of alignment of like it's my time now and then just having to go with it. But I don't know if it's taboo to ask but do you know what like where you want to specialize yet or is it like kind of like open books as in regards to what what you would specialize in?
Makeen: Oh, not taboo at all. I'm really interested in family medicine.
Makeen: and I came I came to that pretty early on in terms of wanting to pursue that. So like, while I was in undergrad, a big part of my orientation towards family medicine was just based on some of the experiences I got in. And so, like, one really amazing internship that I had while I was an undergrad was at a local nonprofit in Inglewood called the Social Justice Learning Institute, and I was an intern in their health equity department at the time. Back when I was heading into my junior year, like the summer heading into my junior year and just being able to see, you know, from the community based perspective, the work that they were doing in regards to, you know, usually what folks called like the social determinants of health right? So, you know, understanding that, you know, folk’s health outcomes are often influenced and determined by the things that they have or don't have access to, whether that be in regards to health, you know, health care resources or whether that be in regards to the education that someone receives that influences their health behaviors or, you know, on the other side of the coin, the education that they receive that allows them certain job opportunities,
Makeen: you know, things like the employment in regards to food deserts and whether or not folks had access to healthy foods in their communities and how this nonprofit was, you know, helping create community gardens across Inglewood and Hawthorne, over 100 of them in schools and parks and, you know, sharing that produce for free,
Makeen: you know, across the community. And so, like seeing that as an example really inspired me. I was like, you know, one of the things I was missing from that piece in my opinion and where I thought I could fit in would be like in terms of having a physician involved in this type of work too, so having your physician involved in, you know, the community outreach efforts and helping provide health education and, you know, being able to be a part of the, you know, the more clinical side of things and, you know, helping individuals in terms of screening, what kind chronic conditions they might have. And then, you know, being able to provide whether it be medical treatment or, you know, you know, counseling in regards to how to best manage their condition, you know, from a science based perspective.
Makeen: And, you know, another opportunity that I had, too, that really informed me was that I was actually a medical assistant at a small private practice. And seeing that doctor, her name was Dr. Karima Hirani. She was a family medicine doctor as well. And she also got her master's in nutrition. And so, you know, she did a lot of great work in terms of providing like a holistic offerings to her patients, in terms of nutrition counseling and, you know, other, you know, supplement based, you know, interventions and treatments, etc., etc.. So like I found pretty early on, like that was what I wanted to do. And I
Makeen: mean to speak realistically, it also would be kind of like the practice that I feel that would give you the most flexibility in terms
Makeen: of like being able to do different things. Because if I was a surgeon, I'd be up at you know...
Tyra: crack of dawn
Makeen: Oh man.
Tyra: 4 am. At work
Makeen: 4 am on call. At work.
Makeen: 16 Hours. And I was like, No.
Tyra: Yeah. So I'm really glad that you said just what you said just about in regards to like picking where or I guess what you want to specialize it. Specialize in and particularly family medicine and what kind of framed that. And I kind of want to take that and also jump into like the tea time with Tyra which basically just talks about what you already kind of mentioned about medical school in general and applying to it, and also just the barriers and obstacles that kind of come with that and the ways in which those barriers also what's the word, they kind of I don’t want to say they filter out, but it's like these barriers are part of the reasons why that you don't see a lot of diversity in medicine just because of how they're set up. And yeah, I guess if you don't mind like kind of talking about some of the barriers for just Bipoc folks and underserved students who are either going through the process of medical school or are thinking of just starting the process of applying to medical school.
Makeen: Yeah, no, definitely, definitely. It’s important to talk about honestly and bluntly, right? Because,
Makeen: you know, we have like this terminology where we say underrepresented in medicine and underserved in medicine, that acronym is URM right.
Makeen: But you know as in so, so many professional higher education spaces and fields you know there is like context to the reason why you know Black, people of color aren't represented in those schools specifically. Um you know when it comes to medicine, a big part of that in regards to something called the Flexner Report and have you ever heard of it sound familiar?
Tyra: No, this is my first time hearing it so I was like what? Please describe. I'm learning too, I’m learning with everybody else.
Makeen: Okay. For sure. For sure. Yeah. So, um, the Flexner report back in the early 1900s was a federally supported um like research initiative in which they were supporting the research of a man named Abraham Flexner, who was researching specifically and evaluating the standard of medical education across schools in the United States. The typical way in which we think about the med school route or the kind of like how med school is structured is that typically you have two years that are focused on developing bioscience and biomedical understandings in terms of understanding like the cardiovascular system and not the cardiovascular, but all of the organ systems.
Makeen: the physiology, the anatomy and how, you know, uh certain medicines, you know, pharmacology interacts with those things right. And then typically the last two years are focused on the clinical rotations, that being specifically, you know, individuals getting experience and, you know, inpatient and outpatient settings typically like, you know, hospitals and they get exposure to the different specialties in regards to you know, OB-GYN you know, women's health, surgery, you know, you know, primary care, internal medicine. And, you know, you get all that exposure and training in terms of your clinical skills, right? That model came from the results of the Flexner report, which at the time when it had assessed the medical institutions across the United States, found that there was just wide variability and lack of standardization in terms of how folks were doing medical training. In fact, back in the 1800s, the typical model of medical education, before we started having more higher education institutions being found in the United States was an apprenticeship model. So you would just train under a physician and then at some point, you know, in terms of your receiving that training, you would then be able to get certified as a physician.
Tyra: That sounds so much better. Sorry, that sounds like…Yeah. Anyways, that's interesting. I didn't know that.
Makeen: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I mean, you know, for some people that works, but for the United States government. It didn’t.
Tyra: It did not. Yeah
Makeen: yeah um some other things it doesn't work for. Oh and it may, you know the decision was okay so we need a new model and it ended up being, you know, based on his evaluation, you know, the recommendation based on the assessment was to create this new standardized model so that all physicians were trained similarly, so that they have similar skill set then, you know, reduce, you know, chances of there being issues of malpractice or like harm, you know, via like someone who's been trained but the result of that and here is where we, you know, examine it from, you know, impact in terms of impact on marginalized folks is that this report and the standardization of the medical school training, they decided to then close down schools that did not or could not adopt this model. And they specifically closed down all of the historically Black and Hispanic serving institutions that were providing medical training to Black and Brown folks. But if we're talking specifically terms of HBCUs, you specifically Black future physicians, they shut down all the programs except for Meharry, Morehouse, Howard So I think we went from like 9 to 3, and that had a long lasting impact in terms of just the number of physicians that could be trained who were Black, because obviously during the early 1900s, segregation was still in play. And so there were still laws that were keeping Black, Indigenous, People of color out of higher education institutions, Right?
Makeen: And of access to residency programs. Also access to, you know, training centers that just all dissipated. And that was kind of like because of the Flexner Report. And so I say all that to say when we think about, you know, us being underrepresented in these fields it was as a result of a racist policy decision in terms of closing down the schools,
Tyra: Hi guys this is Tyra Parrish your host for this episode and we have reached the end of Part 1 of this conversation with this amazing speaker! Don’t click out yet because Part 2 to this conversation has already been posted so go ahead and click over to the next page and don’t forget to subscribe to Youtube channel and spotify page
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Part 2: Do the Change with Makeen Yasar
Tyra: Hey yall, welcome back to Part 2 of our conversation with our amazing speaker on the Do the Change podcast , we’re gonna hop right back into the conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube, Spotify page, and follow us on instagram @dothechangepodcast.
Makeen: You know, Black physicians couldn’t even have membership into the American Medical Association
Makeen: post civil rights. And that was what ended, you know, having leading to the creation of the National Medical Association, which is a organization that allowed Black folks to be able to have membership in regards to the larger, you know, access to resources, networking, etc., etc.. And the AMA is like, you know, the National
Makeen: Institute in terms of membership for Physicians and representation for physicians in regards to, you know, the field and being the standard for the field and setting the standard for some of the things end up being right on. And so, you know, the United States history of racism, you, you know, has left a long lasting impact. And, you know, earlier I was talking about the social determinants of health. And, you know, you look at it in terms of the present day so we have less offerings in terms of programs that are in the communities in which Black and Brown people live. And if we just, you know, really hone in on the microscope and if we're, you know, within the same understanding that the United States has a history of racism, imperialism and colonialism that disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, Indigenous people, you know what that looks like, you know, on the individual and community level is under resourced and, um, you know, or a disproportionate amount of under-resourced communities in which you have folks who, you know, students or, you know, sometimes the first person, their family to be the ones to go to college and having to navigate um you know the premed route by themselves. Right,
Makeen: You know, they don't have the benefit of having like a mom or a dad or uncle or a aunt or a cousin sibling who had already gone to medical school that they could just ask or they might not have mentorship or even know a doctor in their area to give them that guidance. Right.
Makeen: You know, may not always get to participate in programs that help many things. or like receive good counseling. And, you know, one of the things that come to mind for me personally, you know because that was definitely something I faced when I first stepped into LMU but also we speak about it from a financial perspective. There are a lot of financial barriers in terms of the application process itself that
Makeen: often prevents students of color from applying immediately because they have to take into consideration whether it be, whether it be in regards to you know them not wanting to take on more debt and wanting to start working so they can immediately start helping their family or in terms of just being ready to handle all the expenses that come along with the application cycle because you have to pay, you know, a couple hundred dollars to take the MCAT and then, you know, properly study for the MCAT. You need to pay a couple of hundred dollars just to, you know, buy books and, you know, equipment, not equipment software to help you study for the exam. And then,
Makeen: you know, for students who are, you know, low income, there are fee assistant waivers that help in terms of some of these things, which is really great.
Makeen: But if you're, you know, come in, you know, and that helps in terms of like I think up to 15 out of like for applying up to 15 schools or something along the lines of that.
Tyra: Yup. Yeah.
Makeen: But if you don't get that requirement and the narrow requirement, then you're going to be, you know, often the one responsible in terms of funding your education, you know, because if your family has other debt, you know, or you know, there's just not a lot of disposable income, then, you know, often students of color or underrepresented students are, usually the ones that are funding the application process for themselves. And that's what ended up happening with me even while I was at home. You were talking about students and there being differences and disparities in terms of GPA or MCAT.
Makeen: You know, typically when it comes to Black and Latinx students, they typically, you know, the trend comparative to their if we're talking specifically black students and typically in terms of their non-black counterparts is that black students are typically have lower GPAs or or MCAT scores comparatively. But if you take into context, again, like the history and you've taken to the context, the impact of, you know, systemic racism and students having to navigate that as students who are also still responsible for their families and communities, like I had to work 3 to 4 jobs, like, you know, like during the year just to be able to maintain and help pay for my ever increasing tuition or, you know, to be able to pay for my car insurance or like, you know, to have money available so I could take care of my own education so I didn't have to worry or concern my family about the cost of books or things like that. And I was going through the cycle specifically it was like, yeah, I had to, like, you know, also be the one to fund my education. And so I had to fundraise. And that was because, you know, in terms of like paying off debt and, you know, trying to help, you know, support the people I care about in my life, those things also is a priority.
Makeen: And so, you know, you got to also talk about it in terms of like the biases that, you know, some might see in the admissions process as well. But I feel like that's a slippery slope and.
Tyra: Very slippery slope. Like that could be a whole separate episode on biases in medical school.
Makeen: And that is, Yeah, yeah, you you hit it right on head
Makeen: But but yeah, these are some of the barriers that students of color face and the Black students face specifically. And, you know, it's not easy. It's not, you know, fully equitable. But there are people who are out there doing the work to try and, you know, provide opportunity and bridge the gap, whether it be through pathways programs or mentorship programs, whether it be through, you know, programs that help give students stipends to handle the cost of the application cycle for which I was able to participate in and benefit from which was a huge blessing. But yeah, the gaps are still there for sure. It's very, very expensive.
Tyra: You know what it's like? It's like you read my mind. So I was going to ask you like, so what were some mentorship programs or like funding opportunities that you because you've mentioned a little bit about some of the funding opportunities and the like mentorship programs that you participated in or heard of just for folks who are maybe kind of in the same boat or know someone who's in the same boat and they're just trying to figure it out.
Tyra: Do you, I guess, off the top of your head do you know of any that you feel or had positive experiences with or heard positive stories about for folks who are looking to get into the medical field?
Makeen: Yeah, definitely. I would say one that really stands out is pretty well known, I think is the summer health Professions Education Program shorthand for the acronym SHPEP. And it's a national program that has summer pathway initiatives across the U.S. You know, major schools like UCLA. Um, Howard has one as well, and it's a six week summer program for students who are, I believe, freshmen to sophomores and sophomore to junior. And it's a paid stipend program in which students are able to gain, you know, academic enrichment and be exposed to study skills that help them prepare for the MCAT and some of the prereq courses that they need to take. You know, they get mentorship and, you know, participate in programs that are focused on giving or, you are exposed to curriculum, rather, that are focused on, you know, basically making it extremely clear what the route to medical school is and, you know, supportive guidance and advising to help those students get to where they need to go.
So that's one I definitely recommend that folks look in to another or a program that has helped me a ton is Health Career Connections or HCC, and they are a national nonprofit that helps underrepresented and underserved students get internships within the health professions. And so it's across health fields and health practices so that this actually is an internship that isn't just for premeds and it's not even just and actually that's not even the focus of the the org but for the allied health professions as a whole. But pre-med get a lot from participating in health care connections, specifically because they have a lot of placements that are at hospitals. Um, and they have a lot of placements that are tied to health centers, whether they be community like federally qualified community health centers or whether they be, you know, community nonprofits that do work with doctors, etc., etc.. And so I participated in that program twice and that actually got me my job at Kaiser
Makeen: because I had it. Yeah, Yeah, because
Makeen: I got in. Um. Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. And so I got in the internship after my interview and with I finished my internship, you know, I made a good impression on the then associate dean of the office and, you know, one of my mentor is Dr. Walter Comwell. And so he advocated for me and helped me become part of the team based on my performance during the internship. And so they do a lot of really, really, really great work. And they also started this new initiative. It's a medical careers coalition. And so it's a program that, you know, there's like monthly meetings in which folks are able to network with med students and other professionals. It's to help support students and their application journey and cycle, which is really, really helpful. The last one I would mention is another amazing organization, a nonprofit called Mi Mentor. And so Mi Mentor is a nonprofit that is specifically dedicated to supporting underrepresented and underserved. Students get into medical school, and so they have a bunch of webinars and workshops and host conferences that are supportive of undergraduate students, recent graduates. They're even working on initiatives for community college. Um, and they specifically help connect students to physician mentors and medical student mentors. But they also have a really great program. They have two really great programs. One is called the Medical Series Ready, or Medical School Ready Program, MSR and MSR is a yearlong program in which they help support you via every step of the application cycle, working on your personal statement, working on your secondaries, working on your interview skills. And then they actually, you know, along all the way up until when you apply support you in terms of refining your application. So as you know, excellent by the time you're ready to go through the cycle.
Makeen: And most importantly, they just started a summer internship. I think it's the health equity Fellows internship and which and this is based in Southern California specifically, but to which I'm aware, but it's a program which students are able to get clinical experience for a six week internship, which is really, really great too. So yeah, those are the ones that come to mind as of now. But if there's more, I can send them to you and maybe list them in the description.
Tyra: Oh, totally. Yeah. I think I'm really sad that we have to say that it's coming to the end of this conversation because I feel like you just dropped not only alot of gems in regards to like your own experience and how you navigated through things, but then also like plugging other organizations and also plugging us into the history of one medical school and like the history of why we see these like disparities. And I think that even for me, like I thought my understanding, I just realized that in this conversation that I learned, it's like, no, Tyra it's it's actually two steps deeper as to why we're seeing these things. And I think that that gives a lot of context in regards to why certain HBCUs have like medical schools and how that happens. I think sometimes, especially now, you just look at it as like, Oh, these are the schools that have it. But it's like, no, actually there were probably more HBCUs that had it and it was actually removed because of set standards, a state or the standardization of medical schools, which I had no um I don't know the history of the standardization So I think that, yeah, I think as far as like it's like Makeen is like a Black encyclopedia and I'm here for it in like, the best way possible. Like it's like, it's like in a good way and, and it just, I think.
Makeen: Nah I love it, it.
Tyra: Yeah. And, and I think that I'm very glad that you're going to be a doctor, because I feel that in addition to taking care of your patients in the most traditional understanding of that. But I think that there is something to be said about a doctor who also just like is like a wealth of knowledge. So I think your patients are going to leave healed in two different ways, like healed in regards to whatever injury they're coming for and then also healed of like, okay, like actually I'm also empowered myself. You know because of what whatever knowledge you share and that's really awesome to see and experience and also just it's just crazy. Yeah, I’m really said to end this convo, I think I’ve said that three times So I am really said to leave this conversation. Thank you for being open and honest and very clear and direct just about the history of these institutions. Also about how you got to where you got to and yeah. And so I also just want to end on a positive note in regards to self care and any closing thoughts and advice you want to have or you want to bestow on us as listeners. So my first conversation or my first question, not conversation could be a conversation.
Makeen: You got it. You got it
Tyra: how do you handle burnout or moments of feeling overwhelmed, especially as a person of color and also being a scholar and also just being just Makeen every day Makeen. So like, how do you handle burnout?
Makeen: That's a great question because I have definitely had to deal with burnout throughout my life or I would say throughout my adult life. And the way in which I handle burnout nowadays is really making it a priority for me to invest in the things that fill my well.
Makeen: And so I mean, by filling, you know, filling well is doing things that make me feel whole, doing things that I enjoy that help me, you know, appreciate and find the beauty in. And in terms of life, the things that help me feel connected to the community, the things that help me feel grounded and understanding what my purpose is in terms of how I want to go about my career and supporting the folks that I care about. But yeah, really emphasizing, you know, in terms of the things that I enjoy. So, you know, like I'm, you know, I'm a big fan of poetry, so, you know, in terms of reading books and going to open mikes and, you know, connecting to
Tyra: plug your book Makeen. Sorry to interrupt. Plug your book. Go ahead. Plug the book. Y’all Makeen has a book!
Makeen: So I have a book and it is called Lay Me Down by the Water. And it was a project that I released last year that actually planned on re-releasing this summer. Stay tuned. But yeah, you know, it's going to be on a self almost as a self-published book, but it's going to be on Barnes Noble's website so people can find it there. It's again called Lay Me Down by the Water, just like search in my name. You should be able to find it and you guys will find it on my Instagram page as well. In terms of my links Tree. So @makeen_yasar, hopefully the spelling of my name is included and other things.
Tyra: Yes it will. So it's going to be everywhere. You got it.
Makeen: But, you know, even like the creation of that book was extremely healing for me and making time to work on that with something that was helpful. And then, you know, making time to do nothing is huge, right? Like purposely leaving white space in my calendar and not having it be filled in terms of trying to be my most productive self at every given moment and giving myself grace to be more present, you know, stopping, you know, or to lay me down by the water, but going to the water, going to the beach or going to a park or, you know, catching up with someone I hadn't talked to in a while spending time with like, like like these are all things that help fill my well and those are the things that help me recover. So I could be my best self, especially in a society in which, you know, we have, you know, you know, based on, you know, the capitalistic grind, you know, a work culture and an environment that, you know, doesn't allow us, you know, you know, space for rest and creates a overhanging cloud of anxieties in terms of having to try and, you know, progress my career at this certain rate or, you know, need to handle my material needs in terms of, you know, rent and food. And if I don't do A, B, C or D, you know, like, you know, will I be able to meet these needs and, you know, do I deserve to be able to rest? And the answer is always yes, you do.
Makeen: Um, and to go at your own pace and not let the pace of others expectations or your own unrealistic expectations influenced by, again, that grind based on the culture of, you know, the work culture that constantly makes us feel like we have to do more and more. But if you don't do yourself, you can't even show up as your best self in those spaces. And so I know I'm much more useful to my community and the people that I care about. If I'm coming, you know, into spaces, you know, not feeling burnt out, Right.
Makeen: And so yeah, that, you know, in working out, I've recently found like a love and passion for working out again, which is great because I used to, there was a period of time where...I played sports in high school, like I played basketball and volleyball and
Makeen: basketball specifically like we would always run as punishment. And so I just got like I ended up hating working out after, like I went to college and stuff like that. But I think now it's become very meditative and grounding for me. So I do a lot of like strength training and, you know, I play basketball again for fun.
Makeen: I love for the game and I think the mind set shift that helped a lot was like, okay, I'm not doing this because I'm trying to win a championship. I'm not doing this, you know, to try and look a certain way, you know, like my reasons and purpose doing this is so that I could, you know, feel better about my mental, you know, so I could, you know, feel more healthy to be less winded going upstairs so that I could carry boxes when it's time for me to move. Because I always feel like I have to move a lot and you know, I, you know, because and in the future, like, so I could be able to play with my kids and with, you know, the present you know, for my family and the people I love in my life. And, um, you know, so that mind shift in terms of like, you know, the purpose of why i work out has helped a lot in terms of me being more consistent with it.
Tyra: Yeah, maybe I need to adopt that mindset because me and working out still we beef. Now that I think about it like, you know, that's a really good approach of kind of like almost re parenting yourself and kind of like. Re Yeah, I guess a re re parenting your love for like just working out or, just being active in any way. So um, yeah. So before I close out, do you have any parting thoughts or parting advice for those who are coming into the field or just in general folks who are trying to make a change in any way?
Makeen: Um, I think I do. I think I want to leave on a quote. Um, and I have, um, let's see, let's do scroll scroll scroll scroll it is. I'll leave with two quotes. I’ll leave with two quotes. The first one I'll be with is a Toni Morrison quote. So this is an allusion to like well not an allusion to, but in reference to me talking about, you know, very heavy history in terms of, you know, the reason why we have fewer you know HBCU medical programs and you know, speaking about, you know, some, you know, the oppression faced by folks in our community in regards to the Watts rebellions. Um, you know, this Toni Morrison quote is kind of focused on, you know, understanding the need for us to be collectively tied and supportive of one another, understanding the things that we've been through. And so the quote goes, Our past is bleak. Our future dim, but I am not reasonable. A reasonable man adjusts to his environment. An unreasonable man does not. All progress, therefore depends on the unreasonable man. I refuse the prison of I and choose the open spaces of we. And I really love that quote because it speaks to an understanding that for a lot of the rights or, you know, experiences that we have today, um, you know, these things were once considered to be unreasonable to those who were in positions of power.
Makeen: And if we're talking about, um, you know, some of the things that were a result of the civil rights movement, if we're talking about, um, you know, things as simple as the Voting Rights Act or the housing Rights Act and just these simple understandings and thoughts in terms of, you know, the black people and people of color also deserving to have equal access to health care, having that equitable access to be able to have housing in certain neighborhoods, to not be barred from living in certain communities. Right. These were once things that were considered unreasonable by folks who were maintaining, you know, the power differential in regards to
Makeen: maintaining white supremacy and maintaining class hierarchy. Right. And these are now the things that we live with and understand as you know straight forward rights. now, those who want to maintain power, you know, give an example of like like Santis in Florida or whatever, have you. You know, they feel like, you know, there are still folks who disagree with those things. But the large majority of folks understand that these are things that folks should have that everyone deserves. Right?
Makeen: And so it takes being at times unreasonable or what folks deem to be unreasonable, to be able to dream up new ways of being and to be able to fight for, you know, um, environments that are more equitable. Um, and that is always something worth doing, right?
Makeen: Um, as to how, you know, um, you know, to liberate oneself and to help, you know, lift up the food, lift up the foot off someone else's back is, is in of itself liberating. Right, for
Makeen: yourself too. Um, and so I really love that quote. I think about that quote a lot. And then the last quote I'll leave off on is in terms of a simple quote, it's a quote from an amazing she's a she is an amazing organizer, a transformative justice organizer, and her name is Mariam Kaba. And the quote is very simple. It's that hope is in discipline. And, you know, in times where I see things being bleak or difficult, I bring myself back to that quote. And understanding that hope isn't something that's meant to just be easy or to be given to me. It's something that I have to practice in terms of, you know, being able, being willing to be able to put in the work of envisioning that, you know, this thing is possible. This thing that I'm dreaming of, this goal that I'm looking to achieve this way of being I'm hoping for my folks to have, you know, is possible, um, like the CDU mission part of the mission is envisioning society in which there is a health equity for all. Um, and
Makeen: so folks might say that’s unreasonable, they might say that, you know, not logical, but it's like we have to be able to practice hope as a discipline and aim for those things if we want to be able to even benefit slightly from what that reality could be. Right?
Makeen: And so I take that in a lot of, you know, practicing hope as a discipline, Um, and if we're talking like practical stuff, like look for programs, look for mentors, you know, and don't be afraid to take time on this journey because, you know, however long it may take you at the end of the day, um, you know, if you feel the called to this profession and this field and it's worth it in terms of putting in the effort even if it takes a little longer. So those would be the words I leave for folks
Tyra: and I…There's no better way to end this episode um I it's making me think a lot about just hope. I never thought of hope in that way, but that's so, yeah, perfect quote short and sweet. But yeah, I just, I just want to say one thank you, Makeen for just showing up and just being very, just candid about medical school in general, like the journey of academia and then also leaving with these quotes where it's kind of like sprinkling seeds, I want to say where it's like you're kind of sprinkling seeds.
Tyra: And I hope that people listen to this. They take the seeds and they water it in their brain and they kind of move with those two quotes in their mind also, because I think that's just a really good way to just orient yourself and really kind of reflect on like where you're at, where you want to go. And then also like to quote what you just said, being unreasonable is cool, like being a lot of stuff that we have right now was considered unreasonable a couple of generations ago or a generation ago. So, yeah, I want to thank you so much. And also, yeah, I want to thank the folks who are listening. Thanks for tuning in and I will see you guys soon with our next speaker. Thank you so much, Makeen.
Makeen: Thanks Tyra, appreciate you.
About Makeen Yasar:
Makeen Yasar, B.S. (he/him), is a radical builder, change agent, poet, writer, and future physician who will be attending Charles Drew University (CDU) College of Medicine as part of their inaugural class for the school's MD program (Class of 2027). Yasar has roots in Los Angeles by way of his ancestors' migration from Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri. Born in Pasadena and raised in Palmdale, CA, Yasar himself settled down in LA in his late teens and attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) where he earned his B.S. in Health and Human Sciences with a minor in African American Studies.
Yasar was the Coordinator for the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KPSOM), where he helped lead the development of the institution’s pathway initiatives to support students underrepresented and underserved in medicine (URiM). Before medical education, Yasar was an inaugural Youth Justice Fellow for the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition (BSS), where he led youth organizing work in community-based research analysis and justice centered campaign development alongside Black, Brown, and Southeast Asian students to decriminalize youth and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
Yasar is a student assembly representative of the national health professions research and advocacy nonprofit, the Social Mission Alliance (SMA), and is the founder/co-director of the Umoja Health Project, a volunteer initiative bringing health careers exposure to youth of color. Additionally, Yasar also serves on the board of directors for the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC), an org dedicated to decriminalization of systems-impacted youth and their families as well as the abolition of carceral systems.
About This Week's Host:
Tyra Parrish, MPH, is a graduate of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health and Environment and a speciality in Multicultural Health.
Tyra is an advocate for mentorship, lifting others up and helping someone avoid the obstacles that she faced going into the field. Tyra wants to make these conversations as casual and fun as possible and she is excited for you all to listen to her talk with amazing people some of which are close friends, people she met along the way, friends of friends, etc.