Shantiera Taylor, M24

“As I eagerly anticipate the next phase of my career as a surgical resident, I am profoundly grateful for the comprehensive education and unwavering support I received at Tufts."
Shantiera Taylor, MD24

What inspired you to pursue an MD degree, and how has your personal journey shaped your career goals?

When I was about seven years old, my grandfather was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, which deeply affected my entire family. I accompanied him to doctor visits, giving me a firsthand view of his medical care and the compassionate attention of his oncologist and the entire medical team. I was particularly struck by how the physician involved the family in his care, recognizing that support from loved ones is crucial. As my grandfather transitioned to hospice care, I eagerly participated in his daily care, striving to ensure his comfort and alleviate the burden on other family members. He affectionately referred to me as his nurse and expressed profound gratitude for the care we provided him in his final days. This experience profoundly shaped my life, instilling in me a deep desire to become a compassionate physician who could walk alongside patients and their families during their most challenging moments, offering both medical expertise and unwavering support. I wish my grandfather could witness my achievements today, as Dr. Taylor, knowing that they are inspired by his memory and the love we shared.

How have your experiences at Tufts prepared you for your future career?

A defining moment unfolded during the first year Medical Interviewing course. Astonishingly, just two weeks into my medical education, I was directly engaging with patients. This early immersion underscored the essence of viewing patients as individuals beyond their medical conditions, imparting invaluable communication skills and laying the foundation for a patient-centered approach to care. Throughout my tenure at Tufts, the curriculum consistently championed a holistic perspective towards patient care. This was exemplified through the second-year Competency-Based Apprenticeship in Primary Care Program (CAP), where I worked closely with a Family Medicine preceptor and gained firsthand experience in formulating medical plans. This immersive experience honed my skills, nurtured critical thinking, and instilled in me the compassionate ethos indispensable for becoming an adept physician. Beyond the confines of the classroom, Tufts provided abundant avenues for community engagement and service learning. My involvement in the Community Service Learning Program allowed me to work intimately with diverse patient populations, including those within the prison system and experiencing homelessness. Advocating for their needs unveiled the stark impact of social determinants on health outcomes, igniting a fervent commitment within me to combat health disparities and champion health equity.

Further deepening my understanding of healthcare's intersection with social justice, my participation in the Health Justice Scholars Program was transformative. Equipped with invaluable leadership skills, I became a vocal advocate for marginalized communities, particularly immigrants and other vulnerable populations. This enriching experience broadened my perspective and armed me with the tools needed to affect tangible change in healthcare delivery.

As I eagerly anticipate the next phase of my career as a surgical resident, I am profoundly grateful for the comprehensive education and unwavering support I received at Tufts. With a solid foundation laid by my future alma mater, I am confident in my ability to deliver compassionate and competent care to my patients while functioning within any hospital system. The robust network of mentors and colleagues I've cultivated at Tufts will undoubtedly continue to inspire and guide me as I strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

Can you share a memorable experience from your time at Tufts that has left a lasting impression on you?

One of the most impactful experiences during my time at Tufts was undoubtedly the Coaching Program. At the beginning of medical school, we were placed into coaching groups consisting of about ten individuals with a physician mentor. This arrangement fostered a tight-knit community and provided essential social, emotional, and professional support throughout our medical education journey. The first-year Problem-Based Learning sessions with the physician mentor stand out vividly in my memory. These sessions not only sharpened our clinical knowledge but also solidified the bonds within our group. My coach, Karrissa, became an invaluable figure in my life. We not only collaborated on medical cases but also shared dinners at her home and checked in during significant milestones throughout our academic journey. Having a mentor who understood my values and skills from the outset was immensely beneficial. As the years progressed, the support from my coaching group became even more profound. Sharing memories together, from the challenges of medical school to the celebrations of Match Day, created a sense of camaraderie that will forever be etched in my heart. The Coaching Program at Tufts was not just a support network; it was a cornerstone of my growth and development as a medical professional.

If you could go back to before you started at Tufts and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

If I could travel back in time and offer myself one piece of advice, it would be this: "Remember, your voice is significant, you belong, and your potential is boundless. Don't allow imposter syndrome or self-doubt to sabotage your ability to connect with patients, explore beyond your comfort zone, or make meaningful change for marginalized communities. These years will be tough, but they'll also be the most enriching and fulfilling of your life."

How have your research interests evolved throughout your time in medical school, and what impact do you hope your research will have on your field?

Throughout my degree program, my research interests have evolved from a general desire to serve the underserved into a focused exploration of disparities within medical care and delivery. Initially, I was drawn to the MOTHER Lab, where I became aware of the significant birthing disparities impacting women of color. Through this experience, I gained insights into the role of bias and social determinants of health in contributing to morbidity and mortality rates. I transitioned from understanding research to implementing it in practical ways. One notable example is the founding of the Medical Student Doula Program at Tufts, aimed at improving the quality of care for vulnerable populations. This hands-on experience taught me the importance of program development and adaptation to better serve communities. Moving forward, I aim to continue my research in a community-centered approach, with a specific focus on surgical disparities within colorectal and transplant surgery. By investigating these disparities, I hope to uncover gaps in care delivery and develop programs to address and bridge these gaps effectively. Ultimately, I aspire for my research to have a tangible impact on the field by fostering greater equity in medical care delivery. Through my work, I aim to contribute to dismantling inequities and ensuring that all individuals, regardless of background, receive the highest quality of care possible.