SOM class speaker credits Health Sciences Prep Program for support

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

May 30, 2017
  School of Medicine class speaker Jessica Long

School of Medicine class speaker Jessica Long

Before Jessica Long takes the stage on Sunday as the School of Medicine’s Class of 2017 speaker, she will take a moment to reflect on how blessed she is and to be grateful for what she’s accomplished.

“We’re going to experience things in life, in general, that will feel like they’re too much. When that happens, and even before it gets to that point, it’s important to take a step back and ask, ‘What can I manage right now? How am I going to make it through this? What kind of support do I need?’ It’s important to know that you’re not going to have to go through it alone and that, one day, you’ll be one of those people for someone else,” said Long.

Long, a member of the UMMS chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, recipient of the Dr. Sanfrey Lilyestrom Award and Martin Luther King Semester of Service Student Award, and recipient of the Member of the Year award for Region VII of the Student National Medical Association, speaks from experience.

A self-described older medical student, Long, 30, of Lynn, knew as a child that she wanted to go into the medical field and have a career as a healer. At first, she thought maybe massage therapy and then, possibly as an athletic trainer or in sports medicine.

A multisport athlete, Long earned a bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College and a master’s degree in biomedical science from Tufts University. She went on to work at Playworks, a national nonprofit that fosters learning through play, with an emphasis on improvement in lower-income community educational institutions. There, Long was reminded of her original reasons for wanting to go into medicine.

“I want to be part of fostering an atmosphere of wellness, to support people and help them see their goals to fruition,” she said.

Academically she was ready; spiritually and mentally she was not. Long wanted to feel grounded and confident in her decision. The Health Sciences Preparatory Program at UMass Medical School, which strives to enhance the educational preparedness of students going into the health sciences, allowed her that time.

“The program really put me in a good place,” Long said.

She entered UMMS as a medical student in 2013. Throughout her tenure, she has maintained her focus on wellness and community support. In 2016, Long worked with fellow students and community partners to establish Young Men of Today: Medical Professionals of Tomorrow, a longitudinal workshop series to assist young men of color in the Worcester area in their pursuit to gain access to the field of medicine; provide exposure to health care career opportunities; demonstrate the importance of healthy living; and to build mentorship relationships between high school students and faculty and medical students at UMass Medical School.

During her final two years of medical school, Long quickly discovered that the field of obstetrics and gynecology would allow her to meet her own goals, but she was encouraged by then-general surgery resident Sook Chan, MD, to get the best of out every rotation. Long took Dr. Chan’s advice, considering other options, but it was clear to her that ob/gyn is where her passion lies. This summer, she will join the University of Chicago to begin her four-year ob/gyn residency.

When asked what surprised her most about medical school, Long said that she didn’t expect to make friends.

“I knew I wouldn’t be friendless, I just didn’t expect to make close friends. When I came here I gained such good friends that are not just classmates, but faculty members that I know will be with me for the rest of my life,” she said.

Related stories at UMassMedNow:
Massachusetts Medical Society honors five UMass Medical School students
UMMS students partner in service with community organizations

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