Caurice Wynter, KIPP NYC Alumna
Caurice Wynter knew from an early age that she wanted to be a doctor. At 10, she lost her aunt to lupus, an unexpected and tragic event that catalyzed Caurice’s desire to help others. She can still conjure up that feeling that propels her journey to becoming a medical doctor. Caurice is now a fourth-year student at Quinnipiac University’s Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine in North Haven, CT.
Caurice’s family was committed to her education, especially in middle school when they supported her hour-long commute from her home in the northern Bronx to KIPP Academy in Mott Haven. Her family’s culture of prioritizing education has been key to her surmounting the challenges of medical school:
“’I had all of these friends that were pre-med and at the end it was only me. There was no option for me to give up. I had people looking to me for inspiration. To stop – I really don’t have that option. Sometimes I think, ‘did I really sign up for this?’ When things get really tough, it’s easy to think, ‘would I do this again if I had the option?’ I would; even though it’s hard.”
Caurice’s medical training was put into practice earlier than she expected when New Rochelle became the epicenter for COVID-19 in the New York area last spring. While afflicted with COVID herself, Caurice leaned on her medical training, advocating for her sickened parents, who went to three hospitals before they were admitted. She attributes her background in medicine and knowledge of hospital systems to her parents’ survival at a time when they were deteriorating by the day, but told to stay home.
“My role has been to spread awareness about my experience. I could have crumbled or kept all my feelings internally. Instead of sitting in that, I felt it was my duty to help everybody in this situation. I was on Facebook saying, ‘if you feel that something is wrong, don’t let the hospital turn you away.’ I wanted to tell people that this is real. [My parents] were in the hospital for 12 days and then came home to my care. We quarantined and helped everyone get better.”
Caurice decided to change her specialization after this experience last year. For the first two years of medical school, she wanted to do orthopedic surgery because of an influential internship she completed at NYU. However, after overcoming the COVID crisis within her family and spending countless hours in an emergency room, she refocused her interests on emergency room medicine. Her intent changed again after having her first child last year. While she’s still passionate about emergency medicine, Caurice wants to set herself up for more balance between her personal life and career.
“My family is more important than my job at this point. With internal medicine, I’ll get in-depth training in multiple fields. I’ll be able to help more people in my family with broad knowledge. I’m feeling secure in my decision. I’m ready to apply to residency [in New York or Connecticut] at this point.”
While Caurice is excited about finishing medical school next year and starting her residency, she continues to face the challenge of a profession in which she’s often one of few, if any, Black women in the room. The social justice and racial equity protests of the past year have been an intense backdrop to Caurice’s medical school experience, creating challenges that the majority of her classmates do not face:
“All of these killings of Black people, then I’m supposed to be in a professional environment where it’s not talked about openly. Sometimes you feel imposter syndrome; you can’t be your authentic self. I was taking board exams when all of this was happening. It caused me to have to retake those exams. That’s how great of an impact it’s had on me. I’m a big advocate for my parents and for anyone who experiences racism and hardship in medicine. It’s very taxing to be the minority. I feel like some people overlook that race is a major factor in experience.”
Through the academic, personal, and cultural challenges, Caurice remains steadfast in her commitment to becoming a medical doctor and serving as a role model for students who will follow in her footsteps. She tells students that no matter what happens, find a way to keep pushing and never give up on their dreams; you’re needed; life goes on. After a year marked by racial injustice and nearly losing her parents to COVID, one of Caurice’s career goals is to unlock opportunities in the medical profession for students like herself, “I want to be the leader of a program that encourages people from all different backgrounds to pursue a career in medicine.”