Name: Monica Ngo
Graduating Class: Class of 2021
Undergraduate school attended and major: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Mechanical Engineering
Languages you speak?English, conversational in Cantonese and Mandarin
Favorite activities to do in the Twin Cities?
Going for runs across Stone Arch Bridge, biking throughout the city (bike lanes everywhere), treating myself to bubble tea at Feng Cha / Machi Machi and Cantonese-style Chinese food at Sidewalk Kitchen in Dinkytown. I have done a fair amount of travelling and my husband and I consider ourselves “foodies”. Although I attest to the fact that the Twin Cities does not have the biggest food scene, it definitely has many GEMS (some even outcompeting what you might be able to find in big cities such as Chicago) and has been rapidly growing in especially the past 5 years.
Why did you choose the University of Minnesota Medical School and what do you like about it?
I chose the University of Minnesota because I vividly remember feeling welcomed during interview day; everyone was personable and easy to talk to. Our student tour-guide was happy as a medical student and had great things to say about finding good mentors. Furthermore, I had gone out of state for undergrad and was excited to move closer to family again for this chapter of my life. Now as an MS4, I can say all of the above have been true of my own experience. I’ve had mentors who have really advocated for me in providing me avenues for scholarship opportunities, research publications, and creative opportunities to serve the community I live in.
What would you change (areas of development) about the University of Minnesota Medical School?
Areas of development: a specific vision for how the medical school wants to impact the health of community members in the Twin Cities. For instance, neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status, which are most often inhabited by BIPOC or immigrant communities, face lower life expectancy rates compared to wealthier neighborhoods. We as part of a health institution and academic center need to understand the historical reasons for why there are such strong disparities regarding the social determinants of health and what role we have to play in community reparations.
What is the relationship between the students and the surrounding community?
It is no secret that one student in my class was caught defacing George Floyd’s memorial - an unacceptable, heinous crime that clearly furthers broken trust between community members and healthcare as an institution. However, in the wake of tragedy, I was proud to see the immediate, positive ways in which members of the student body reacted to the incident. For instance, student council members released an apology statement denouncing the crime. Students who already had established relationships with community leaders reached out to see what, if anything, the student body could do to mourn with the community and start rebuilding trust - ensuring that community leaders were leading these conversations. Clearly there is more work to be done regarding education and true dialogue surrounding the role that racism and discrimination have played in affecting patient health outcomes and trust between health systems and the communities we serve; however, I find immense hope in witnessing how medical students, particularly BIPOC students, those from underrepresented backgrounds, and allies at this institution have and will continue to lead discussions that put an emphasis on centering community voices and leadership; I believe this will be fundamental in bringing about true equitable change we need within medical education and our current healthcare system.
Have you participated in any student organizations? If so, why did you select those organizations and what has been your experience?
SNMA: I joined SNMA because, as the eldest daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, I was completely on board with the organization’s vision to increase the number of culturally competent and socially aware physicians. As part of SNMA, I had the privilege of serving as co-community chair as an MS2 and have also been able to mentor a few pre-medical students. The experiences I have had are invaluable to me. Some of the greatest joys include witnessing pre-medical students succeed in becoming medical students themselves - alongside the joys of seeing kids in the community see pathological specimens for the first time with bewildered eyes saying, “Cool! Is that a human heart? Wow, smoking makes your lungs that black?! etc.”
I cannot thank SNMA enough for opening doors for me as well as providing opportunities for networking!
Phillips Neighborhood Clinic: I would highly recommend volunteering at Phillips Neighborhood Clinic if you get the chance to! I think this is a great opportunity and chose to participate for the following reasons:
● Opportunity to serve those underserved by our current health system
● Exposure to working in an interdisciplinary team (nurses, nutritionists, community health workers, pharmacists, etc.)
● Early exposure to navigating and using “Epic” - the electronic medical record used by most of the hospitals and clinics we rotate in.
I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed being part of the University of Minnesota’s medical school. Despite its weaknesses (which I believe all institutions have weaknesses), I have always felt supported by both peers and faculty. I have also found mentors who are receptive to feedback and eager to continue to improve medical education for everyone.