Christol Long has a vision: She sees herself on an airplane when someone needs emergency medical care. The flight attendant calls out, ‘Is there a doctor onboard?’ and Christol Long calls back, ‘I’m a doctor, I can help!’
“I want to be that person,” Long said. “Where ever you go on this planet, there will always be someone in need of medical care, and the ability to administer medical care is so vital.”
A senior in medical laboratory science, Long is on track to become the doctor in her dreams. She will spend spring semester in a clinical practicum at Massachusetts General Hospital working alongside laboratory professionals, analyzing biological specimens and performing scientific tests. Long thrives on work that involves critical thinking and problem-solving in a rapidly changing environment. It’s what fascinates her about emergency medicine, and what she loves about her major.
“I enjoy the hands-on, fast paced clinical medical laboratory setting. There are so many applications — urinalysis for diseases, wound culture swabs, hematology, blood typing for bone marrow transplants and transfusions,” she said. “I’m excited to see it in action in my clinical rotation.”
Along with coursework for a B.S., Long is enrolled in an accelerated M.S. in Medical Laboratory Science, which will prepare her for a leadership role in laboratory practice.
Helping peers succeed
Long credits her academic success at UVM partially to the close rapport of students in her major. “The 20 students in my cohort are very close-knit and supportive of each other. We know each other’s names and stories and we make sure we’re all studying,” she said.
She carries that spirit of helping peers into her role as president of the UVM Minority Association for Premedical Students, hosting activities to help students feel ready for medical school. These include workshops with doctors on the faculty of UVM Larner College of Medicine; panel discussions with current medical students; and a “Day at Larner” program in which undergraduates observe medical school classes at the Larner College of Medicine. Long feels especially proud of the mentoring program she established for medical students of color to advise undergraduate students on medical school concerns and help build their confidence.
“Students of color know how other students of color feel and what they are going through, and understand their self-doubt,” Long said. “We have so many internalized messages, and self-doubt is so strong. Seeing another person of color in a position where we want to be is crucial.”
Growing up in the small town of Brattleboro, Vermont, Long fully understands the experience of being Black in a predominantly white community, and she appreciates being able to help other students through that experience. Born in Jamaica, she moved to Vermont with her mother, a licensed nursing assistant, at age six. Their extended family resides in Jamaica.
Long was first in her family to graduate high school, and she’ll be first to graduate college. She appreciates the financial support she received throughout her time at UVM. All four years she received a Henderson Grant, awarded to students who demonstrate financial need, academic merit and commitment to social justice and diversity. She also received scholarships from Wilbur Society and Catamount Commitment, which aims to remove financial barriers for limited-income families in Vermont.
While academic work kept her busy during the past four years, she found time to participate in social activities including Black Student Union soul food socials and fashion shows and hanging out with friends at the Mosaic Center for Students of Color.
“When I first got to UVM I felt at home in the Mosaic Center,” she said. “I feel very lucky to be part of the vibrant people of color community at UVM.”
After graduating this May, Long will work as a medical laboratory scientist while planning for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and applying to medical schools.
“I can become board certified and start working right away in my field, putting money aside for the MCATs,” she said. “I could also have a substantial career in medical laboratory science over the years, and it may lead to a management position in a lab. I have so many options with this major.”
Emergency medicine remains top on her list. “Working in the E.R. is so intense. Everyone is so brave. I want to be able to help,” she said.