September 25, 2020 – As president and academic chair of the UF College of Medicine class of 2023, Michelot Michel advocates for his classmates to ensure each student receives a fair and equitable medical education, no matter their identity or background. For Michel, who is the first Black student to be elected to an academic chair position in the college’s history, this leadership role is only one of several ways he tirelessly works to transform medical education.
“We know the landscape of medical education is changing—we can see the change happening before our eyes,” Michel says. “I’m grateful to be in an institution where faculty and administration are in the trenches doing the work necessary to make sure our education is truly reflective of what’s necessary for us to learn.”
He finds hope in efforts like Celebration of Diversity Week, an annual event he helps plan that hosts nationally renowned speakers in conversations on implicit bias and equity, and the student-led Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, or JEDI, which aims to amplify the perspectives and experiences of students of color underrepresented in medicine. He’s happy to report that his lectures now incorporate discussions on microaggressions and race as a social rather than biological construct. Altogether, he believes, these changes will create a generation of physicians that sees patients holistically and compassionately.
Michel maintains focus on his packed schedule of lectures and advocacy work with help from the Lawrence M. Goodman Scholarship. He says the scholarship influences his future and for that, he’s grateful.
“I don’t come from a very wealthy family, so this scholarship definitely helps lessen the burden of financing medical school. When I think about my future specialty, residency and career, I can focus on pursuing my best calling instead of thinking of the financial obligations,” he says.
Michel was convinced he had a future in medicine after he helped a family member navigate a difficult diagnosis and an often perilous health care system.
“I heard some of the worst news you can hear about someone you care about and love so deeply. The way a lot of the physicians interacted with my family made me realize I wanted to be someone who helped guide others through something like that,” Michel says. “I genuinely think God has put me on this earth to care for people in that capacity.”
Michel feels equally drawn to helping transform the physician workforce into one that more accurately reflects the patients it treats. At the UF College of Medicine, he sits on the admissions welcoming committee, where he encourages underrepresented applicants to join him at an institution where classmates “empathize, love, work on a team and take care of each other.” At a national level, Michel is part of Creating Opportunities for Diversity and Equity, or CODE Med, an organization that provides medical school application assistance to underserved and underrepresented minorities.
“On the admissions welcoming committee, I’m intentional in talking to underrepresented students, especially Black men. Seeing someone who looks like you who’s currently thriving at the school makes you more interested in attending,” he says. “At CODE Med, we remind underrepresented students that we need them to pursue medicine so in the future, we have a health care system that works a little better for everyone.”
Michel is interested in pursuing a career in academic medicine, a field that combines his passions for teaching, advocacy and research. Regardless of the position he’ll hold, he knows exactly where his passions and efforts will lie: in creating a better future for all patients.
“My goal is to make sure medicine has more people who look like me, more people from backgrounds that typically have a harder time navigating the health care system and more people who understand those barriers and can work from within the system to change it,” he says.