Scholarship Awarded

Dallas, TX – Serenna Jivraj, second year medical student at TCU-Texas Christian University and UNTHSC-The University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine has been selected as the winner for STDLabs’s “Test Yourself” Fall 2021 scholarship.

The $1,500 scholarship is awarded twice per year to a student to support and reward individuals who step outside their comfort zone to further their education both inside and outside of the classroom.

"Hi there, my name is Sereena Jivraj and I'm a second-year medical student at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine here in Fort Worth Texas. I am so incredibly honored and grateful to have received the STD Labs Scholarship from the Apollo Experts Group.

The cost of my education for just one year is around $80,000, and for a 4-year program you can see how that easily adds up to over $300,000.

As a first-generation graduate student, I have a lot of stress around that price tag. My goal has always been to become a physician and provide care to those in need but the astronomical cost of my education acts as a significant burden and often interferes with my learning.

This scholarship has helped alleviate some of the stress that I feel and reassures me that my own community believes in me enough to support me financially. I am forever grateful for this scholarship, and I hope to be able to pay it forward in the near future by providing healthcare to those in need.

Medical school is hard enough without adding in a virtual learning environment and lack of in-person interactions. This last year, I began and completed my first year of medical school in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was not easy by any means, it challenged me to be flexible, adapt to new circumstances, and opened my eyes to opportunities that present themselves during unusual circumstances. Having experienced many different challenges in the past, I knew the beginning would be turbulent, but that eventually, things would work out and I would grow from the entire experience.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for knowledge, science, and overall public health. I grew up solving puzzles and fiddling with mind games. Instead of watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, I solved Sudoku. Critical thinking became nearly tangible. In high school, I took these passions and enrolled in AP courses while volunteering in the hospital and in college, I earned my Advanced Emergency Medical Technician license alongside a full course load. I have been determined to pursue a career as a physician and I was not going to let the uncertainty of a global pandemic deter me from my aspirations. As a woman of color and child of immigrants, I’ve made lemonade from countless lemons and thus, I knew exactly how to be fluid enough to adapt to the changes my school made as we began our first year in a virtual classroom. Some key elements I knew I needed to prepare for were the possibilities of burnout as a result of my physical well-being, mental well-being, and my academics in this new, virtual reality. It wouldn’t be long before the 2x2 boxes detailing the blurry outlines of my peers and professors got the best of me. Thus, I made sure to incorporate daily activities addressing these elements to prioritize my overall success. I took on the fad of home workouts, went for daily walks, masked up for sand volleyball with my peers, and made sure to remain connected with professors through office hours and email, rather than becoming frustrated when I didn’t understand certain concepts. Even if I didn’t have many questions, I made sure to engage with my instructors during office hours to break the ice and make scheduled lectures more interactive, as it was important that they too fought against the burnout of Zoom University.

As challenging as “drinking from a fire hydrant” was in the virtual setting, I truly believe I benefited from these strange circumstances in multiple ways. For example, I had the opportunity to join a virtual research lab addressing maternal mortality rates in America, I spent an immense amount of time with my family, which would not have been possible in the traditional setting, and I practiced adapting to unusual situations with a positive attitude. Additionally, instead of spending hours driving between various destinations, I spent that time writing policies for the Texas Medical Association and advocating for those in need. Even further, my school as an entire entity collaborated and established multiple initiatives to show our compassion for our community. These initiatives included a COVID-19 vaccination drive, a personal protective equipment (PPE) drive for local healthcare providers, and various educational events in which we encouraged members of our community to register and obtain their vaccinations and maximize their immune systems against the virus. Had we not started medical school during this pandemic, my classmates and I wouldn’t have been able to join forces the way we did and engage our community for the greater good. Strangely enough, within this year alone, I grew immensely as an individual and a healthcare provider and looking back, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I could’ve easily deferred my studies until in-person learning resumed, but instead, I built upon my skills and improved my ability to communicate, adapt, and remain resilient in times of uncertainty.

Attending medical school during a global pandemic definitely took me for a ride, but just like all of life’s challenges, there were many positives that came from the experience and going through such a challenge taught me how to see the upside to any situation. As a future physician, the most important concept I learned and practiced throughout the year was engaging in activities that promoted my own well-being and allowed me to prioritize myself, something that will soon become extremely necessary as I embark on residency in a few years. Overall, while COVID-19 may have unfortunately taken countless lives, I am thankful I was able to connect with individuals across the country through the onset of a new virtual reality and unite with other students to bring healthcare and education to those in need. It was an honor to serve the community before even becoming physicians and I truly believed experiencing this pandemic as students will allow us to tackle the next pandemic or global health concern with strategy and poise.”



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