#T4DTourX: Awake – 5 Years Later

 In Voices of Diversity

It’s after midnight and I’m awake.  Not it’s not the time zone difference although some would probably right it off as this.  I’m charged. I’m excited.  Why?  Tomorrow marks a return to the beginning for us—for the family that is the Tour for Diversity in Medicine.  5 years ago I hopped on a plane from Philadelphia bound for Hampton, Virginia and Hampton University because I believed in the dream that 2 of my closest friends had–the dream to change the world and the health of America by touching students one at a time on their own campuses.  

I remember when they first came up with the idea.  As medical student leaders no one was willing to take the risk.  So the idea was deferred but not forgotten.

I remember when I learned that the tour was finally going to happen.  It was a simple instant message—“The Tour is happening.  You on the bus?”  Saying yes was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.  

Now we’re 5 years in and on the 10th Tour. We’ve been to 28 states and made 48 stops. Despite being prone to motion sickness, I’ve ridden over 9000 miles on a bus for more than 140 hours.  I’ve worked with 34 awesome leaders and mentors and we’ve met more than 3000 students on more than 40 college campuses.   I’ve been on every tour except for a 1 day stop at the SNMA conference in 2016 that a blizzard in Denver made me miss by 2 hours but I was wearing my green shirt in solidarity as I sat stranded at the Denver International Airport.

What’s made me do it?  What’s made hopping on a plane 1-2 times per year to hang out on a bus for a week almost a compulsion? It’s the same thing that’s keeping me awake right now.  The Tour for Diversity in Medicine is more than just an organization with a mission—it’s a family with a creed. Each of us has been brought into this family through a deliberate “adoption” process by our parents and we honestly live and breathe the mission of T4D—to educate, cultivate and inspire—it’s our goal for each and every student who attends a T4D program to leave it knowing that not only CAN they pursue their dream of becoming a physician, dentist or pharmacist; they WILL succeed in doing it!  

5 years ago there was an energy pulsating through our group that was palpable.  Late into the night, we were stuffing bags while eating pizza not sure of what the next morning was going to bring—success or failure—we were here to try it out and see what came next.  It was like that feeling when you’re on a roller coaster and it’s just about to go down that steep incline.  Now it’s 5 years later.  We’ve done it. We’ve perfected it. We even have a mentor with us this time who attended the program at FAMU a couple of years ago (what can we say—the program works ☺) But I’m still awake—there should be a feeling of comfort right now—but I still feel the buzz.  I still feel like the rush of the roller coaster is just around the corner.

We’re going back to Hampton tomorrow where it all started. We’re going back to where we all first learned #whyIT4D.  Our goal is motivate students, to keep students their on their path, to #ChangeLives and we do.  But we’ve all been changed by T4D as well. It’s made us better teachers, mentors, researchers, doctors and people in general.  It’s given us life and hope and experiences that remind us that when things seem like they’re at the worst that we’re able to make a difference.  The students we meet tomorrow will be future doctors, dentists, podiatrists, and pharmacists.  One might find the cure for Cancer or HIV.  One might deliver my baby or save my life. I’m awake because I know tomorrow is one of hope and one of destiny.  It’s a celebration of the difference that the Tour for Diversity in Medicine makes—Tour-by-Tour, Stop-by-Stop, Day-by-Day and Student-by-Student.

It’s a dream come to fruition and no longer deferred. It’s the dream that keeps me awake tonight—the dream of changing the world for even just one student.  It’s #WhyIT4D.

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