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Melanie Taylor-John

1755

Bold Points

1x

Finalist

Bio

As a committed medical doctor and researcher, I am dedicated to improving mental health access for minorities, including ethnic groups and the elderly. My work focuses on breaking down barriers to treatment and advocating for mental health awareness to reduce stigma. Fueled by personal experiences, I strive to create a more equitable healthcare system. My discipline, motivation, and expertise make me a strong candidate to significantly aid in advancing mental health equity and accessibility.

Education

University of Miami

Master's degree program
2023 - 2022
  • Majors:
    • Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science/Research and Allied Professions
  • GPA:
    3.9

University of Miami

Bachelor's degree program
2014 - 2019
  • Majors:
    • Medicine
  • GPA:
    3.1

CUNY Queens College

Associate's degree program
2012 - 2014
  • Majors:
    • Biological and Physical Sciences
  • GPA:
    3.9

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Mental Health Care

    • Dream career goals:

      To aid in creating a world where mental health is prioritized and not stigmatized.

    • UM Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute

      Student Assisstant
      2024 – Present7 months
    • Research Associate

      JAMHAN
      2023 – 20241 year
    • General Practitioner

      Prizm Medical
      2022 – 20231 year
    • Medical Doctor

      UWI Mona Hospital
      2020 – 20222 years

    Sports

    Swimming

    Club
    2004 – 20095 years

    Research

    • Cognitive Science

      DAVOS — Research Associate ( Data Collector & Manager as well as Medical Consultant)
      2023 – 2024

    Arts

    • Trinity GuildHall

      Music
      2006 – 2014

    Public services

    • Advocacy

      Transwave JA — Medical Consultant/Guest Speaker
      2023 – 2023
    • Advocacy

      Smile TV Jamaica — Medical Consultant/Guest Speaker
      2023 – 2023
    • Advocacy

      Bank of Jamaica — Annual Guest Speaker
      2022 – 2023

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Sloane Stephens Doc & Glo Scholarship
    -Turning Loss Into A Win- In 2020, I lost my beloved father to suicide after his long battle with Bipolar depression. This was both an emotional hit and financial hit to my family, as he was one of the family’s breadwinners. This experience taught me the critical importance of investing in mental health and highlighted the pressing need for improved health care and support systems. It also was a call to action for men to enhance their health-seeking behaviors, especially in the mental health realm. With this realization and a hope to help people struggling with mental illnesses on a larger scale, I redirected my passion for psychiatry toward a career in mental health research. Initially, I became obsessed with doing my research on improving mental health-seeking behaviors among male populations in the Caribbean. This focus was driven by my father’s example of the cultural stigma surrounding mental health in especially male communities, where men often perceive seeking help as a sign of weakness. As I continued to heal and my motivations evolved, I broadened my focus to include mental health research for minorities, including ethnic minorities and the elderly. These groups often face significant barriers to accessing mental health care, such as socioeconomic challenges, cultural stigmas, and a lack of culturally competent care. Addressing these disparities became a central theme of my work. I have since dedicated myself to finding solutions that make mental health care more accessible and effective for these underserved populations. Despite struggling with debt, exacerbated by my father's absence, and having little disposable income, I was determined to contribute to the field of mental health research. Last year I utilized a combination of loans, help from my family, and scholarships, much like this one, to enroll in the Master of Clinical and Translational Investigation Program at the University of Miami (UM): Miller School of Medicine, focusing on Alzheimer's research. Though successful on this journey thus far, it has been a test of faith and a means of strengthening my resilience. Nevertheless, persevering in my studies has connected me with like-minded individuals who continue to open avenues for me to contribute to Alzheimer's research. One example of an avenue is my current work in a longitudinal study at UM to understand the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s in the elderly. With the education and experience gained, I will eventually be better equipped to join and aid in the ongoing research to not only find a cure for this pervasive disease but improve its management amongst other diseases. In conclusion, my personal experiences and professional journey have solidified my commitment to improving mental health care. The loss of my father has fueled my dedication to making a difference in the lives of those affected by mental health issues and those unaware of the importance of mental health. By pursuing a career in mental health research, I hope to contribute to a future where mental health is prioritized, and individuals receive the care and support they need to lead fulfilling lives.
    Kayla Nicole Monk Memorial Scholarship
    As a toddler, curiosity was a natural part of my life. However, as I grew older, my inquisitive nature only intensified. This passion for understanding the world led me to pursue a career in STEAM, eventually becoming a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. Despite my efforts in clinical practice, I felt as if my impact was suboptimal. Seeking a broader influence, I applied for a clinical research project on early Alzheimer's screening. During my interview, my mentor profoundly influenced my perspective. She explained that while I could make a difference one person at a time as a doctor, I had the potential to help millions as a scientist and researcher. This revelation inspired me to shift my focus toward a career in mental health research, where I aim to make a significant and widespread impact. With guidance from my mentor, I decided to further my education and pursue a clinical research degree with a focus on mental health. Realizing that there was very little mental health research occurring in my home country, I decided to enroll in the Clinical and Translational Investigation Master of Science program at the University of Miami (UM), to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible. Through my program, I hope to be immersed in a dynamic environment fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. Here, I intend to cultivate connections with fellow scholars passionate about Alzheimer's research, igniting opportunities to contribute meaningfully to this field. One example of my success in doing this thus far is my recent employment as a research associate in a longitudinal study on the progression of Alzheimer’s at UM, initiated by my program director. I firmly believe that my journey, enriched by international education and diverse perspectives, equips me to engage in ongoing efforts to combat Alzheimer's. Additionally, I believe that studying at UM, a university that values diversity, will broaden my academic horizons and will significantly impact my perspectives on different cultures. Interacting with diverse peers and faculty members will raise my awareness of cultural nuances and will emphasize the importance of inclusivity in research and healthcare. This cultural competency will be extremely valuable in mental health, where understanding patients' cultural backgrounds can greatly influence treatment outcomes. As a Black individual, I became acutely aware of the lack of involvement of black communities in research projects and the predominance of white participants. Armed with my international education, I am committed to bridging this gap by advocating for inclusive research practices and influencing policy changes to improve Alzheimer's management, particularly within Black populations where the prevalence is most pronounced. More specifically, I aim to contribute to treatment protocols that are specific to one’s background. Obtaining the Kayla Nicole Monk Memorial Scholarship would aid in providing me with the finances to complete my last semester at UM in the Fall of 2025. This would allow me to not only continue receiving the required knowledge and making meaningful experiences but also bring me a step closer to my long-term goal of contributing to a future where mental health care is prioritized and accessible to all, including underserved populations. In essence, my journey is about leveraging my experiences to effect positive change worldwide. With a commitment to advancing Alzheimer's research, I seek to make a meaningful impact in the fight against this pervasive disease, making mental health care accessible to everyone, including underserved populations. Through my dedication to mental health research, I hope to also create a future where effective treatments are available regardless of the cultural or racial context.
    Simon Strong Scholarship
    In 2020, I experienced the most challenging and heart-breaking experience of my life. I suddenly lost my father to suicide after his long battle with Bipolar depression. This was both an emotional and financial hit for my family and me, as my dad was one of the breadwinners of the family. Thus, navigating his absence took a level of strength, resilience, and intentional steps toward healing and accepting what had happened. My father was very upbeat and light to be around, making him one of my favorite people to interact with. However, this light eventually became overshadowed by his deep depression, eventually making it hard for me or any of my family members to relate to him. Despite our continued efforts to support him, my father’s reluctance to seek help resulted in his condition worsening and the unsightly outcome. When he took his life, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of grief, guilt, and numbness. In the immediate aftermath, I sought the support of family, friends, and a therapist, with whom I shared my feelings and memories of my father. This seemed to provide some sense of solace and a connection that I desperately needed at the time. I was lucky to have a crucial tribe of people and a professional who understood the complexities of mental illnesses and the impact they could have on my family and me. My father’s death highlighted the importance of maintaining optimal mental health and the stigma that exists around mental illnesses. As a result, one of the ways that I honor my father today and work through my grief is by sharing my experience to aid people with similar mental experiences. I have committed to a life of mental health advocacy to empower people to take control of their mental health and dismantle the stigma surrounding it. My dedication to advocacy has led me to share my knowledge on talk shows on depression, be a guest speaker at health fairs, and incorporate mental health advice into most of my interactions with patients. One thing that I stress in many of my talks or interactions with patients is that poor mental health can be as devastating as a faulty heart, kidney, or liver, as evidenced by my father's journey. Lastly, mental health care moved from being an option to a priority in my life, which also helped with my healing journey. As suggested by my therapist, I began to practice the art of mindfulness, which included meditation, journalling, and occasional yoga. These helped me to stay grounded in the frequent times of turbulence. Additionally, physical activities like gym also helped to alleviate the anxiety that surfaced after losing a parent. Overall, I gradually learned to accept that my father was gone. Of course, accepting did not mean forgetting, but simply finding a way to live with the loss and cherish every memory. I eventually was able to understand that his struggle was a part of his story, but it does not take away from the amazing man that he was. One lesson I hope readers take away is the art of letting go—a skill my father struggled with. Letting go involves releasing the hardships and hurt that life can throw at you and embracing gratitude for the beauty that life can also offer.
    Mental Health Importance Scholarship
    Something I've always told my patients is that our mental health, though often overlooked, is just as important as the health of our other body parts, such as our hearts, kidneys, and liver. Although poor mental health sometimes may not be as dramatic as other illnesses in the immediate period, it can eventually severely affect one's physical health, relationships, work, and overall quality of life. Such as with my father, it can also be the difference between life and death. He struggled with Bipolar depression as well as poor mental health management for many years of his life and due to stigma, refused to seek help until it was too late. Unfortunately, his journey ended in his demise on a background of suicide in 2020. This highlighted for me the utmost importance of one’s mental health and the need to engage in healthy practices. Mental health entails our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. As a result, maintaining mental wellness entails a multifaceted approach including aspects of our lives that we have been told to include from the beginning of time. Specifically, things like eating a healthy diet with all the food groups, exercising for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour for 3 to 4 days a week, and getting at least 7 hours of sleep have been essential in my mood regulation and cognitive functioning. Additionally, I've taken up psychotherapy, which has taught me about mindfulness, a tool that has significantly improved my mental well-being. Some mindfulness practices I've adopted include journaling, yoga, and affirmations. It has helped me build emotional resilience, as I maneuver through life’s ups and downs and is something I would recommend to everyone. Another very important aspect of my life that has contributed to my state of mental wellness is leaning on my support system. In times of adversity, my family members and friends have been there to either listen to me vent or provide me with much-needed advice. Maintaining relationships with my loved ones has created a sense of security and belonging that has been beneficial to my mental well-being. In conclusion, mental health management should never be optional but should be a natural part of our lives. This is especially important because good mental health can enhance our overall well-being and prevent us from the consequences of mental health issues. One final lesson that I took away from my father is the art of letting go- something that he struggled with. Letting go entails releasing the hardships and hurt that life can throw at you and embracing gratitude for the beauty that life can also offer. This lesson is one I strive to impart to my patients and my community, encouraging them to find peace and resilience in the face of life's challenges.
    Christina Taylese Singh Memorial Scholarship
    As a toddler, curiosity was a natural part of my life and as I grew older, my inquisitive nature only intensified. This passion for understanding the world led me to pursue a career in science, eventually becoming a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. Despite my efforts in clinical practice, I felt my impact was limited to helping one patient at a time. Seeking a broader influence, I applied for a research project focused on Early Alzheimer's screening. During my interview, my mentor profoundly influenced my perspective. She explained that while I could make a difference one person at a time as a doctor, I had the potential to help millions as a clinical researcher. This revelation inspired me to shift my focus toward a career in mental health research, where I aim to make a significant and widespread impact. My passion for clinical research, arises from a drive to comprehend complex systems and solve real-world problems. Clinical research empowers us to delve into the intricate mechanisms of the human body, create innovative treatments, and enhance health outcomes on a wide scale. This passion prompted me to further my education and pursue a Master’s degree in Clinical and Translational Investigation at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. With this degree, I hope to gain the knowledge and experience to tackle some of the real-world public health issues in the field of mental health, one of which is Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer's disease disproportionately affects older African Americans, with a twofold higher risk compared to white Americans. Yet, African Americans experience a late diagnosis of the disease compared to Caucasians and poorer outcomes. Learning this, my goal became to bridge and eliminate the gap in health disparities between African Americans and white Americans. My research aims to address these disparities and improve early diagnosis and treatment for marginalized communities. One aspect of my research is a systematic review to identify the barriers to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease among African Americans. By analyzing and summarizing the work of other scientists, the goal is to raise awareness among healthcare policymakers and make necessary improvements. Common barriers identified in many studies include mistrust of scientists, financial issues, stigma, and misinformation. To address these root causes, I intend to make informed recommendations and lobby for changes such as more financial assistance programs for patients with Alzheimer’s, subsidized screening programs, and more education programs. Additionally, I plan to engage in my community-based research, ensuring the involvement of community leaders and stakeholders to determine more population-specific solutions to these issues addressed in the review. In summary, my inquisitive nature and passion for understanding the world have driven my journey in clinical research. By shifting my focus to mental health research, I aspire to foster a collective, cross-cultural understanding of the challenges surrounding mental health and champion evidence-based strategies to promote mental wellness amongst minorities on a global scale. I also aim to address critical health disparities and contribute to a more equitable and fairer world.
    Carlos F. Garcia Muentes Scholarship
    Suddenly losing my father to suicide in March 2020, after his long battle with Bipolar depression, was the most challenging and heartbreaking experience of my life. My father was very upbeat and light to be around, making him one of my favorite people to interact with. However, this light eventually became overshadowed by his deep depression, eventually making it hard for me or any of my family members to relate to him. Despite our continued efforts to support him, my father’s reluctance to seek help resulted in his condition worsening and the unsightly outcome. Unfortunately, he was also one of the breadwinners of the family, leaving my family in a state of financial insecurity. His struggle highlighted the pressing need for improved mental health care and support systems, as well as a call to action for men to enhance their health-seeking behaviors, especially in the mental health realm. With this new perspective, my passion for psychiatry was strengthened and redirected toward a career in mental health research. Initially, I dedicated myself to improving mental health-seeking behaviors among male populations in the Caribbean. This focus was driven by the cultural stigma surrounding mental health in these communities, where men often perceive seeking help as a sign of weakness- a category my father unfortunately fell into. However, as I continued to heal and my motivations evolved, I broadened my focus to include mental health research for minorities, including ethnic minorities and the elderly. These groups often face significant barriers to accessing mental health care, such as socioeconomic challenges, cultural stigmas, and a lack of culturally competent care. Addressing these disparities became a central theme of my work, and I sought solutions that would make mental health care more accessible and effective for these underserved populations. Last year, my passion led me to the privilege of working with the DAVOS Alzheimer’s Collaborative group as a research associate in an observational study to improve Alzheimer’s screening in Jamaica. This experience was rewarding, as it allowed me to combine my research skills with my commitment to helping communities in Jamaica, where I had lived for over 9 years. By identifying the barriers to early screening and diagnosis, we were able to begin developing strategies such as education programs for healthcare providers, caregivers, and patients to improve awareness and access to Alzheimer’s care. Like my father, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1 in my earlier adult years, a condition I have been reluctant to publicize. Reflecting on my father's and my battles, I realized the importance of sharing my experiences to help others facing similar challenges. Consequently, I also committed to a life of mental health advocacy to empower people to take control of their mental health and to dismantle the stigma surrounding it. My dedication to advocacy has led me to share my knowledge on talk shows on depression, be a guest speaker at health fairs, and incorporate mental health advice into most of my interactions with patients. In conclusion, my personal experiences and professional journey have solidified my commitment to improving mental health care and advocacy. The loss of my father has fueled my dedication to making a difference in the lives of those affected by mental health issues and those unaware of the importance of mental health. By pursuing a career in mental health research, I hope to contribute to a future where mental health is prioritized, and individuals receive the care and support they need to lead fulfilling lives.
    Redefining Victory Scholarship
    During medical school psychiatry was the one specialty that stood out to me. My passion was only further fueled by the loss of my father to suicide after a long battle with Bipolar depression. His struggle and ultimate demise highlighted the lack of access that some minorities have to mental health care and the stigma that exists toward mental illnesses, especially in some cultures. It also emphasized the immediate need for reform in our mental health care system and the need for change in societal attitudes. As a result, I have committed to a life of mental health research as well as advocacy, to address the disparities that exist in mental health care. When I think about success, I envision achieving my goal of making mental health care accessible for all and establishing a world where the stigma against mental illnesses is non-existent. More specifically, I think of finding culturally specific ways to address long-standing barriers to mental health care, such as poverty, miseducation, mistrust of scientists, and fragmented management in the healthcare system. Understanding the solutions to these barriers has given me a sense of purpose and has been the basis of my academic and professional journey. Considering my research goals, in 2023 I decided to further my education and pursue a master’s degree in clinical and translational investigation at the University of Miami (UM). From this process, I hope to gain the knowledge and experience needed to lead research projects and connect with like minds who open avenues for me to contribute to the world of mental health research. One notable example of the experience I’ve gained through my master’s program is my current position as a research assistant in a UM longitudinal study to determine the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease. This hands-on experience has both enhanced my research skills and reinforced my commitment to making groundbreaking changes in the field of psychiatry. Unfortunately, this journey has not been without its challenges. Though I continue to excel in school, the completion of my degree has been threatened by my family’s financial situation. Receiving this scholarship would aid in providing the needed funds to complete my final semester of school and be one step closer to my goal of contributing to the world of mental health research. It would also help to alleviate the constant financial anxiety that plagues me as I maneuver through my studies. The financial boost would shield me from financial worries, allowing me to fully capitalize on academic and professional opportunities. In conclusion, success for me is completing my degree and gaining the knowledge to lead mental health research and advocacy. The support from this scholarship would be a pivotal step in this journey as I strive toward a future where mental health is prioritized, stigma, as well as miseducation, have been eradicated and mental health care is accessible for all. With your help and my commitment, I am sure that I can contribute to a more equitable world and improve the outcomes of people like my father, struggling with mental illnesses.
    Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship
    Suddenly losing my father to suicide in March 2020, after his long battle with Bipolar depression, was the most challenging and heartbreaking experience of my life. My father was very upbeat and light to be around, making him one of my favorite people to interact with. However, this light eventually became overshadowed by his deep depression, eventually making it hard for me or any of my family members to relate to him. Despite our continued efforts to support him, my father’s reluctance to seek help resulted in his condition worsening and the unsightly outcome. My father's struggle highlighted the pressing need for improved mental health care and support systems, as well as a call to action for men to enhance their health-seeking behaviors, especially in the mental health realm. With this new perspective, my passion for psychiatry was strengthened and redirected toward a career in mental health research. Initially, I dedicated myself to improving mental health-seeking behaviors among male populations in the Caribbean. This focus was driven by the cultural stigma surrounding mental health in these communities, where men often perceive seeking help as a sign of weakness- a category my father unfortunately fell into. As I continued to heal and my motivations evolved, I broadened my focus to include mental health research for minorities, including ethnic minorities and the elderly. These groups often face significant barriers to accessing mental health care, such as socioeconomic challenges, cultural stigmas, and a lack of culturally competent care. Addressing these disparities became a central theme of my work, and I sought solutions that would make mental health care more accessible and effective for these underserved populations. Last year, my passion led me to the privilege of working with the DAVOS Alzheimer’s Collaborative group as a research associate in an observational study to improve Alzheimer’s screening in Jamaica. This experience was rewarding, as it allowed me to combine my research skills with my commitment to helping communities in Jamaica, where I had lived for over 9 years. By identifying the barriers to early screening and diagnosis, we were able to begin developing strategies such as education programs for healthcare providers, caregivers, and patients to improve awareness and access to Alzheimer’s care. Like my father, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1 in my earlier adult years, a condition I have been reluctant to publicize. Reflecting on my father's and my battles, I realized the importance of sharing my experiences to help others facing similar challenges. Consequently, I also committed to a life of mental health advocacy to empower people to take control of their mental health and to dismantle the stigma surrounding it. My dedication to advocacy has led me to share my knowledge on talk shows on depression, be a guest speaker at health fairs, and incorporate mental health advice into most of my interactions with patients. In conclusion, my personal experiences and professional journey have solidified my commitment to improving mental health care and advocacy. The loss of my father has fueled my dedication to making a difference in the lives of those affected by mental health issues and those unaware of the importance of mental health. By pursuing a career in mental health research, I hope to contribute to a future where mental health is prioritized, and individuals receive the care and support they need to lead fulfilling lives. One final lesson I wish for readers to take away is the art of letting go—a skill my father struggled with. Letting go entails releasing the hardships and hurt that life can throw at you and embracing gratitude for the beauty that life can also offer. This lesson is one I strive to impart to my patients and my community, encouraging them to find peace and resilience in the face of life's challenges.
    Healing Self and Community Scholarship
    Addressing the specific barriers that hinder early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease in Black communities is my unique contribution to improving mental health care accessibility. My ongoing systematic review highlights critical obstacles such as mistrust of medical professionals, financial constraints, stigma, and miseducation. By targeting these issues, I aim to enhance system preparedness and provide insights applicable to other mental health conditions. As a mental health advocate and educator, I will champion policy changes to tackle these barriers. This involves advocating for increased funding for mental health services, promoting community-based education to dispel myths and stigma, and fostering stronger relationships between healthcare providers and marginalized communities. My contributions will enrich the existing literature and inform practical interventions and policies to make mental health care more accessible and equitable for all. Through these efforts, I aim to create a more inclusive mental health care system that acknowledges and addresses the unique needs of diverse populations, ultimately improving outcomes and reducing disparities in mental health care.
    John Young 'Pursue Your Passion' Scholarship
    My pursuit of a career in Alzheimer's disease research is deeply rooted in personal experience and a strong desire to address pressing public health issues. Initially, I was driven by the loss of my father to depression in 2020, which inspired me to explore mental health research. However, in 2023, my mentor introduced me to the critical and often overlooked issue of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly community. This was further reinforced by my personal experiences, as many of my friends’ grandparents and my great-grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, a disease affecting nearly 55 million people worldwide. With guidance from my mentor, I became involved in the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative Flagship Project: Jamaica. In this role, I was tasked with data collection and management to identify barriers to early Alzheimer's screening in Jamaican healthcare institutions. Through administering questionnaires and cognitive tests, we uncovered widespread miseducation about Alzheimer's. To address this, we organized educational sessions at churches and health fairs, which significantly improved community awareness and acceptance of early screening. This experience not only honed my research skills but also underscored the profound healthcare disparities faced by vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, and the urgent need for improved system preparedness. I am now pursuing a master's degree in clinical and translational investigation at the University of Miami (UM), specializing in Alzheimer’s Disease. This program has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to lead research projects in psychiatry and neurology, and it has connected me with a network of passionate individuals committed to Alzheimer's research. Currently, I am involved in a longitudinal study at UM, which tracks the progression of Alzheimer's in healthy participants. This research has the potential to inform better preventive measures and treatments, further fueling my commitment to this field. My ultimate goal is to leverage my education and experiences to effect positive change for the elderly population, particularly in the Caribbean, where healthcare disparities are pronounced. By advancing Alzheimer's research, addressing systemic healthcare issues, and promoting public education, I aim to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those affected by this pervasive disease. My dedication to understanding Alzheimer's pathophysiology and advocating for better healthcare practices drives my efforts to contribute significantly to finding a cure and improving the quality of life for patients and their families globally.
    Rosetta Richardson's Trailblazer Elderly Care Scholarship
    For a very long time, I was almost obsessed with pursuing a career in research on the cure for depression, mainly because this is what my father lost his life to in 2020. The loss left a profound impact on me, driving me to understand the mechanisms behind mental illnesses and their treatments. However, in 2023, I met my mentor, who opened my eyes to another pressing public health issue in the elderly community—Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, I had my own real-life experience with its prevalence, as many of my friends’ grandparents suffered from it as well as my great-grandmother. Witnessing the debilitating effects it has on the elderly population, I unfortunately got to see the financial, emotional, and physical impact that this dreadful disease has on us caregivers. Therefore, I have shifted most of my focus to joining the world of researchers seeking to better understand the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s, which affects nearly 55 million people worldwide. With further help from my mentor, I volunteered and was later hired to perform data collection and management for the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative Flagship Project: Jamaica. In this role, we aimed to detect barriers to implementing early screening for Alzheimer's in healthcare institutions across Jamaica. Through this study, we conducted questionnaires and other cognitive tests to learn about the ongoing miseducation passed down from generation to generation about Alzheimer's. To combat this, we hosted educational sessions at churches and health fairs across Jamaica. Most importantly, caregivers and participants living with Alzheimer’s were thrilled to learn new things about this prevalent disease, and some eventually came around to the once frowned-upon screening process. This experience not only enhanced my research capabilities but also highlighted the significant disparities in healthcare among vulnerable populations such as the elderly, and the need for better system preparedness. I later went on to pursue my current master's in clinical and translational investigation at the University of Miami (UM), with a focus on Alzheimer’s Disease. Studying at UM has not only provided me with the knowledge needed to lead research projects in psychiatry and neurology but has also connected me with like-minded individuals who continue to open avenues for me to contribute to Alzheimer's research. One notable example is my current involvement in a longitudinal research study at my university, which focuses on the progression of Alzheimer's disease by following up with healthy participants. This study was introduced to me by my program director and aims to identify early biomarkers and risk factors associated with Alzheimer's, which could lead to better preventive measures and treatments. With the education and experience gained, I will eventually be better equipped to join and aid in the ongoing research to find a cure for this pervasive disease. I am also currently working on a systematic review that identifies the obstacles to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease among African Americans. So far, mistrust of medical professionals by African Americans has been a common denominator throughout many studies. This mistrust is often rooted in historical events, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which have led to a deep-seated wariness of the medical establishment. This highlights the importance of healthcare professionals and academics like me in acknowledging these disparities and educating ourselves on the historical contexts that contribute to this mistrust. We must also engage in self-reflection to uncover any implicit biases we may hold. These are issues I plan to address in my future work in STEM, to contribute to a more equitable and fairer world. As a Black woman from the Caribbean, I am fully aware of the disproportionate impact that Alzheimer's has on my race. The Caribbean region has also seen a rise in Alzheimer's cases, yet there is little ongoing research in our community. This lack of research means that many Caribbean populations remain underrepresented in clinical studies, which can lead to disparities in the development and application of treatments. Thus, I intend to utilize my international education to influence policy changes and improve the management and outcomes of Alzheimer's in these underrepresented populations. I aim to bridge the gap by fostering international collaborations that bring much-needed resources and attention to Alzheimer's research in the Caribbean. In addition to my research endeavors, I am deeply committed to public education and advocacy. During my time with the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative Flagship Project: Jamaica, I saw firsthand the power of education in changing perceptions and behaviors. Many people in the Caribbean hold onto myths and misconceptions about Alzheimer's, often viewing it as a normal part of aging rather than a serious medical condition. Thus, with every opportunity I get, such as in talk shows or even simply carrying out my daily interactions with research participants, I attempt to educate people to dispel these myths and promote early detection and intervention, which are crucial for improving patient outcomes. Furthermore, my goal is to develop culturally sensitive educational materials and programs that resonate with Caribbean communities. These programs will aim to raise awareness about the importance of early screening, the benefits of participating in clinical trials, and the availability of support services for caregivers. By engaging with community leaders and leveraging local media, we can create a broader impact and foster a supportive environment for those affected by Alzheimer's. My commitment to Alzheimer's research extends beyond the Caribbean and America. I envision a global approach to tackling this disease, one that incorporates diverse populations and addresses the unique challenges faced by different communities. By collaborating with international researchers and organizations, we can share knowledge, resources, and best practices to accelerate the discovery of effective treatments and ultimately a cure for Alzheimer's. In conclusion, my journey is about leveraging my education and personal experiences to effect positive change amongst the elderly population, an often overlooked subset. With a commitment to advancing Alzheimer's research, I seek to make a meaningful impact in the fight against this pervasive disease in the Caribbean and eventually globally. My dedication to understanding the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's, addressing healthcare disparities, and advocating for public education will drive my efforts to improve the lives of those affected by this prevalent condition. I am determined to contribute to the scientific community's efforts in finding a cure for Alzheimer's and to ensure that underrepresented populations benefit from advancements in research and healthcare.
    Combined Worlds Scholarship
    Thanks to the invention and improvement of various modes of transport such as planes, ships, and even our cars, we now live in a world where we can travel to any country of choice, no matter how far. As a result, we can truly indulge in and learn from the different cultures and people that exist within these places, and this is why I enjoy traveling. In 2014 I moved from Barbados to Jamaica where I volunteered in the Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative Flagship Project Jamaica opened my eyes to the barriers to implementing early screening for Alzheimer's. Coupled with my experience as a Barbadian, this experience not only broadened my understanding of some of the regional health challenges but also fueled my passion for mental health advocacy. I later traveled to Florida to study at the University of Miami School of Medicine, where I found that exposure to different cultures, perspectives, and environments is crucial. Also, being a Black woman in medicine, I recognize the importance of diverse perspectives in healthcare. Traveling has taught me that solutions to healthcare issues are not one-size-fits-all. Different cultures have unique approaches to health and wellness, and learning from them can lead to innovative solutions. For example in my new role as research assistant, here in Miami, I have benefited greatly from the insights I gained while traveling to visit friends in Miami in previous times. I can approach problems with a more open mind and consider various cultural contexts. Additionally, traveling has helped me develop empathy and adaptability. I have learned to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds and to be sensitive to their needs and values. These skills are essential in the medical field, where understanding patients' diverse experiences can lead to better care. In conclusion, travel has been a key factor in my personal and professional growth. It has allowed me to appreciate the richness of different cultures and to see the world from various perspectives. This exposure has made me a more adaptable and innovative individual, qualities that are essential in healthcare. As I continue my journey in medicine, I am committed to using the lessons I have learned from my travels to make a positive impact on global health.
    Priscilla Shireen Luke Scholarship
    For an extended period, I was focused on pursuing a career in researching the cure for depression due to the loss of my father to suicide, in 2020. However, two years later, a mentor introduced me to another critical public health issue affecting the elderly community - Alzheimer's. This shifted my focus from just depression to overall mental health research, leading me to work in mental health advocacy, specifically with groups focused on Alzheimer's and perinatal depression, which I will elaborate on in this essay. In 2022, I delivered a speech at the Bank of Jamaica Health Fair on maintaining mental health. My talk covered the distinction between mental illnesses and poor mental health, along with practical tips for managing common conditions like depression and anxiety. The positive reception led to an invitation to speak again the following year. This exposure also led to invitations to speak on local TV shows in Jamaica such as Smile TV, where I discussed depression management and treatment strategies. Additionally, I participated in the YouTube series "For the Mommies," providing insights on identifying and managing perinatal depression. Subsequently, my mentor's guidance led me to volunteer and eventually get hired to aid in the data collection for the Davos Alzheimer's Collaborative Flagship Project: Jamaica with the goal of detecting barriers to implementing early screening for Alzheimer's in healthcare institutions in Jamaica. In this study, we conducted questionnaires and other tests to understand the ongoing miseducation about Alzheimer's passed on from generation to generation. To combat this, we organized educational sessions at churches and health fairs across Jamaica. Most importantly, attendees were thrilled to learn new things about this prevalent disease and eventually came around to the once frowned upon screening process. This experience gave me hope for the Caribbean. Though there is still a long way to go, I intend to return eventually to continue advocating for mental health and conducting research there. Following the project, I pursued further education to sharpen my research skills through my current master's in clinical and translational investigation at the University of Miami (UM). Studying at UM has not only provided me with the knowledge necessary to lead my research projects in psychiatry but has also connected me with like-minded individuals who continue to open avenues for me to contribute to the world of mental health research. Currently, I am a research assistant in a longitudinal study focusing on the progression of Alzheimer's disease by following up with healthy participants. With the education and experience I have gained, I aspire to join and contribute to ongoing research to find a cure for this prevalent disease and other mental illnesses, particularly in underserved communities. As a Black person from the Caribbean, where not much research is being conducted on our populations, I also intend to use my internationally gained knowledge to include more members of my community in global research projects and diversify study protocols. Furthermore, I intend to use my own experiences with my dad to advocate for better mental health care and policies, both in the Caribbean and globally.
    Connie Konatsotis Scholarship
    As a toddler, I was naturally curious, and as I grew older, my inquisitive nature only intensified. This passion for understanding the world led me to pursue a career in STEAM, eventually becoming a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. Despite my efforts in clinical practice, I felt my impact was limited to helping one patient at a time. Seeking a broader influence, I applied for a research project focused on Early Alzheimer's screening. During the onboarding interview, my mentor said something that changed my life. She told me that while I could save one person at a time as a doctor, I could potentially help millions as a scientist or researcher. This convinced me to continue pursuing a career as a woman in STEAM, specifically in mental health research. This love for research moved me to pursue a degree in Clinical and Translational Investigation at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. With this degree, I hope to gain the knowledge and experience to tackle some of the real-world public health issues in the field of mental health, one of which is Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects over 6 million individuals in the American population aged 65 and older. Projections estimate a rise to nearly 13 million by 2050. Older African Americans are at a twofold higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to white Americans in the same age range. After learning this, my goal has since been to assist in bridging and, more importantly, eliminating the gap in health disparities between African Americans and White Americans. I am currently working on a systematic review that first identifies the obstacles to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease amongst African Americans. So far, mistrust of medical professionals by African Americans has been a common denominator throughout many studies. This highlights the importance of the roles that scientists like myself play in acknowledging these disparities and educating ourselves on historical events that lead to this mistrust, such as the Tuskegee experiment. We must also engage in self-reflection to uncover any implicit biases. These are issues I plan to address in future articles and talks to contribute to a more equitable and fairer world. As an Afro-Caribbean person, my work doesn't stop in America. I aim to also assist in educating and dismissing the many myths related to Alzheimer's in Caribbean culture, something that was very apparent in a study I worked on last year entitled "Davos Alzheimer's Jamaica Flagship Program: To Identify Barriers to Early Screening for Alzheimer's." In this study, we conducted questionnaires and other tests to learn about the ongoing miseducation passed on from generation to generation about Alzheimer's. We combated this by hosting educational sessions at churches and health fairs across Jamaica. Most importantly, attendees were thrilled to learn new things about this prevalent disease and eventually came around to the once frowned-upon screening process. This experience gave me hope for the Caribbean, which has a long way to go, but I intend to eventually return to continue my work there with mental health advocacy and research. In summary, my inquisitive nature and passion for understanding the world have driven my journey in STEAM. By shifting my focus to mental health research, I aim to address critical health disparities and contribute to a more equitable and fair world, both in America and globally.
    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    In 2020, I tragically lost my beloved father to suicide after his long battle with Bipolar depression. This devastating experience has profoundly changed my life, teaching me the crucial importance of investing in mental health. Consequently, I firmly advocate that poor mental health can be just as devastating as a faulty heart, kidney, or liver, as evidenced by my father's journey. With this new perspective, I redirected my passion for psychiatry toward a career in mental health research. Initially, I dedicated myself to improving mental health-seeking behaviors among males suffering from depression in the Caribbean. As I continued to heal and my motivations evolved, I broadened my focus to include mental health research for minorities, including ethnic minorities and the elderly. Last year, my passion led me to the privilege of working with the DAVOS Alzheimer’s Collaborative group as a research associate in an observational study to improve Alzheimer’s screening in Jamaica. Continuing this trajectory, I recently became a student assistant for a longitudinal Alzheimer’s study at the University of Miami Evelyn McKnight Brain Institute. Similar to my father, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1 in my earlier adult years, a condition I have been reluctant to make disclose. However, reflecting on my father's and my own battles, I recognize the importance of sharing my experiences to help others facing similar challenges. Consequently, I committed to a life of mental health advocacy to empower people to take control of their mental health and to dismantling the stigma surrounding it. My dedication to advocacy has led me to share my knowledge and experiences on a talk show about depression, at health fairs, as well as to incorporate mental health advice into most of my interactions with patients. One final lesson I hope readers take away is the art of letting go—a skill my father struggled with. Letting go entails releasing the hardships and hurt that life can throw at you and embracing gratitude for the beauty that life can also offer.
    Szilak Family Honorary Scholarship
    Experiencing cancer, both directly and indirectly, has profoundly impacted my beliefs, relationships, and career aspirations. The journey I embarked upon with my grandfather, as he battled spindle cell lung cancer, taught me invaluable lessons that have shaped my outlook on life and strengthened my spirituality. Growing up in a family where cancer ran rampant, I had developed a cynical mindset, believing that fighting against this relentless disease was futile. However, witnessing my grandfather's unwavering determination and his deep faith in prayer challenged my pessimism. Despite the rarity and aggressiveness of his cancer, and his advanced age, he declared, "I'm going to beat this thing." His resolute belief in something greater than himself inspired me to cultivate hope, even in the face of daunting trials and tribulations. Moreover, my grandfather's approach to cancer highlighted the incredible power of the mind. His positive attitude, exercise routine, and rekindled sense of humor were instrumental in his recovery. Through his example, I learned that harnessing the mind's potential to envision and manifest our dreams is a crucial step towards overcoming any adversity. This realization became important in my journey towards being accepted into the University of Miami's Master's program this fall semester. Despite any scientific skepticism, I believe in something greater than myself, and this spiritual strength has bolstered my aspirations and provided a sense of purpose. One of the pivotal moments in my grandfather's diagnosis was my visit to Barbados, where I took on the role of orchestrating his medical journey. Utilizing my background in oncology, I advocated for him during doctor consultations and navigated the complex healthcare system to ensure efficient diagnosis and palliative treatment. This experience highlighted the importance of advocacy, especially for those who may get lost in the system or face delays. The profound impact of advocating for my grandfather further ignited my passion for advocacy, specifically within the field of psychiatry, which I aspire to pursue. The relationships within my family were also profoundly affected by my grandfather's battle with cancer. Witnessing his pain and fear brought us closer together, and we became a pillar of support for him. By accompanying him to numerous doctor appointments, assisting with household chores, and providing words of love and reassurance, we demonstrated the importance of standing by our loved ones during their darkest moments. The power of this support system cannot be underestimated, as it served as a source of strength, hope, and solace throughout his journey. These experiences have reinforced my belief in the significance of strong relationships and the immeasurable value of being there for others during their own trials. As I move forward, I carry with me the profound lessons learned from my grandfather's battle with cancer. The resilience of the human spirit, the unwavering power of love, and the ability to find hope and happiness even in the darkest moments have shaped my beliefs, strengthened my relationships, and set the course for my career aspirations. With gratitude in my heart and an unwavering determination, I am ready to face the future with optimism, knowing that I can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
    Mental Health Importance Scholarship
    The strength and significance of the human mind have been repeatedly demonstrated throughout history. From the placebo effect to personal anecdotes, it is evident that our mental state influences our well-being. As an aspiring Mental Illness researcher, I have witnessed the transformative power of the mind in my own life. Recognizing the profound impact mental health has on every aspect of our existence, I believe in prioritizing and maintaining it. In this essay, I will delve into why mental health is crucial, drawing upon personal experiences and outlining the pillars of my mental wellness regime. The mind possesses an extraordinary ability to shape our reality. Placebo studies have shown that belief alone can alleviate pain and facilitate healing. Witnessing my grandfather's resilience despite stage 4 lung cancer affirmed the profound influence of a hopeful and determined mindset. Moreover, in my own life, tending to my mental health has brought about positive transformations that lead me to many of my successes. During periods of actively nurturing my mental well-being, I experience enhanced clarity of thought, improved decision-making, increased motivation, and a general sense of well-being. In the face of personal tragedy when my father became a suicide statistic, I confronted the profound need for mental health support. Despite the history of my father's reservations, to this date I embrace therapy as an invaluable investment in my own well-being. Through therapy, I discovered the immeasurable value of having a non-biased and confidential space to explore the complexities of life, gain professional guidance, and find solace. Therapy became an integral part of my mental health regime, providing me with tools to navigate challenges and nurture resilience. Within my mental health regime, I have identified four pillars that contribute significantly to my well-being. Firstly, prioritizing adequate sleep has proven to be transformative. Recognizing the need for restful sleep, I established a sleep schedule and practice better sleep hygiene by disconnecting from electronic devices an hour before bedtime at 10pm. To optimize my sleep quality, I also incorporate supplements such as magnesium and melatonin. Secondly, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet fuels not only my physical vitality but also influences my mental well-being. By nourishing my body with nutritious food, I cultivate the foundation for mental clarity and stability. Thirdly, engaging in exercise 4-6 times a week has been instrumental in managing my mental health. Combining cardiovascular workouts with weight lifting, I not only promote physical fitness but also find solace and balance. Exercise has become a conduit for releasing stress, boosting endorphins, and enhancing the quality of my sleep. Lastly, stress management remains an ongoing practice. Exploring various coping strategies, I have found meditation, journaling, and exercise to be particularly effective in cultivating resilience and equanimity. As I continue to experiment with different techniques, I am committed to finding personalized approaches to navigate life's ups and downs. Understanding the immense influence of the mind on my overall well-being, I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of mental health. I have witnessed the profound impact of a mental wellness regime and this becomes increasingly apparent during the few times when unfortunately I deviate from it. By embracing therapy, prioritizing sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and exploring stress management techniques, I strive to unleash the potential of my mind and maintain my mental well-being. In doing so, I aspire to contribute to the field of Mental Illness research, driven by a deep understanding of the transformative power of mental health practices
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    The dream version of my future self is a renowned researcher in psychiatry, dedicated to filling gaps in the pathophysiology and treatment of unipolar depression, contributing to mental health promotion in underserved populations, and making significant advancements in prediction models and new drugs for treatment-resistant mood disorders.
    Disney Super Fan Scholarship
    An Unforgettable Disney Movie: Embracing My Inner Princess! The 1997 film adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella holds a special place in my heart as a young black girl growing up in the 90s. This movie had a profound influence on me, capturing my imagination and leaving a lasting impact. It not only mesmerized audiences with its stunning visuals and talented cast but also represented a significant moment of representation and empowerment for me. One of the most remarkable aspects of the film was its "color-blind" casting approach. In an industry that often lacked diversity, witnessing Brandy Norwood flawlessly bring the character of Cinderella to life as the first African-American actress in the role was nothing short of revolutionary. It broke down barriers and shattered stereotypes that had long prevailed in the portrayal of Disney princesses. Seeing myself reflected on the screen filled me with a sense of pride and confidence in my own beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, the film celebrated natural hair in a way that deeply resonated with me. As a black girl, I often felt the pressure to conform to society's narrow standards of beauty, which rarely included hairstyles like my own. However, seeing Brandy proudly wear her braided hairstyle as Cinderella sent a powerful message. It encouraged me to embrace and celebrate my natural hair, recognizing that my uniqueness was beautiful and deserving of representation. This newfound confidence in my own identity and appearance became a source of strength as I navigated the world as a young black girl. Beyond its impact on representation, Cinderella conveyed important messages of empowerment and self-determination. The film transformed Cinderella into a strong and empowered heroine who took control of her own destiny. Watching her escape poverty and abuse through resourcefulness and determination became a powerful inspiration for me. It instilled in me the belief that I, too, could tap into my own inner strength and strive for my dreams, regardless of the challenges I faced. As I reflect on the influence of this film, I am reminded of the journey I have embarked upon in my own life. Despite facing adversity, including the loss of my father, a major breadwinner, and my grandfather's battle with stage 4 lung cancer, I have persevered. Through hard work and determination, I earned a Barbados Government Scholarship that paid for my medical school education, making me the first doctor in my family. This same perseverance led to my recent acceptance into the Masters program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. I am eternally grateful for the strength and resilience that movies like Cinderella instilled in me, propelling me forward in pursuit of my dreams. In essence, Cinderella, much like many other Disney movies, was not just a movie. It was a transformative experience that encouraged me to embrace my inner princess and love my entire being. It taught me that beauty comes in all forms and that I could be the hero of my own story. The film's representation and positive messages continue to inspire me every day. As I move forward on my journey, I carry the lessons learned from Cinderella with me, embracing my individuality, celebrating my natural beauty, and believing in the power of my dreams