VOICES OF HMSOM: Brown Brings Empathy to a Future in Medicine
February 07, 2024
When Allison Brown was young, her family nicknamed her “Doc,” thanks to her massive amount of empathy. Now an adult on the verge of graduating from the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine (HMSOM) this year, that desire to help others has only grown.
“I’ve always had a yearning for personal connections. The opportunity to listen to patients’ stories, capture their voices and treat their woes drove me toward medicine,” Brown said.
But it wasn’t until she was in undergrad at Stanford University that she knew becoming a physician was her calling.
“I initially thought I would do research and get a PhD. Then I did a few summers of research in college after which I realized it was difficult to connect personally with test tubes and blood samples. I stayed at Stanford to get a master’s degree in biology and took advantage of that time to complete pre-med courses and start looking at the medical school application process,” she said.
“Allison Brown is a credit to our school,” said Jeffrey Boscamp, M.D., president and dean of HMSOM. “Her work throughout her years pursuing her medical degree proves her academic excellence - and also her incredible empathy. She’ll make a great doctor.”
CA NATIVE MOVES TO NJ
So what brought this Northern California native to HMSOM? Allison says she was immediately attracted to the fact that HMSOM was a newer medical school.
“To me, this meant the people and the program were still flexible and not sclerotic. The SOM’s vision concentrates on the larger population achieving the highest levels of wellness, a sentiment that was simply not prioritized at other institutions.”
It was a personal call she received in 2020 that sealed the deal.
“Dean Stanton called me and left a voicemail congratulating me on my acceptance. I still have that voicemail saved on my phone; she was instrumental in my choosing HMSOM.”
It proved to be a great fit. Allison says she’s enjoyed every phase of the experience, from didactics in phase 1 to clerkships in phase 2 and further exploration of medicine in phase 3. As if her schedule isn’t full enough, she’s also served as a student ambassador as well as a peer tutor/mentor.
“Some of my favorite memories have been working with younger medical students in the hospital and seeing the types of humans that the SOM will graduate into the world!”
HIKER TAKES HACKENSACK
Allison has also shared interests garnered through growing up just a few hours from Yosemite National Park with the SOM. Her family’s love for hiking and the outdoors inspired the establishment of the school’s Wilderness Medicine Student Interest Group. She says knowing how to practice medicine in extreme conditions has always piqued her interest. In fact, two people close to her had medical emergencies in the mountains and needed a heli-vac.
“I’ve tried hard to marry wilderness medicine and neurology – lots of interesting topics including altitude medicine and impact on cerebrovascular hemodynamics as well as spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury,” she explained.
SWIMMING TOWARD HER FUTURE
Allison is also an extremely accomplished and decorated swimmer. Both she and her twin sister began the sport at a young age and went on to compete at the collegiate, national and international level. Allison believes those athletic achievements have helped shape her career in medicine , serving as a reminder throughout her life that there is no substitute for hard work and there are no shortcuts to success.
“As a scholar-athlete at Stanford, I learned the importance of organization, time management, and functioning as a member of a team. Sometimes you must step up and be a leader and other times you must step back and listen. I like to think that my athleticism was based on hard work, perhaps with a sprinkle of physical talent!”
LOVE FOR FAMILY, EXCITEMENT FOR WHAT COMES NEXT
It was of course her mom and dad who signed her up for swimming when she was a child. And to this day, mom and dad continue to cheer her on in her medical career.
“My parents have taught my twin sister and me so many valuable things – the importance of hard work and humility, an appreciation of culture through travel, patience, and dedication to a craft. I am incredibly grateful for their unwavering support and direction.”
As for her own direction, Allison is currently applying into neurology for residency after graduation this year. While her specific interest changes every few months, she says ultimately she’d love to find a niche within neurology. Perhaps as a clinician-educator working with medical students and residents while also treating patients.
“With residency on the horizon in just a few short months, it’s both nerve-racking and exciting to see what the future will hold! With any big transition comes challenges, but I feel comfortable knowing that I will end up at a residency program that’s meant for me.”