We live in a world where image is valued more than truth; struggle seems more like failure, and vulnerability more like weakness. These very aspects have strengthened and molded me into who I am today. Having two immigrant parents, academic advice has always been difficult for me to come by. Even at my undergraduate institution, a pharmacy advisor looked me in the eyes and told me, “If this is your chosen profession, you are setting yourself up for failure.” Hearing these words during a time of self-doubt helped me realize that nothing worth working towards comes easily and if my dreams didn’t scare me, then they certainly weren’t big enough. I am no stranger to being discouraged, and over the last few years of my academic career I have learned that overcoming adversity and succeeding, ultimately defines who we are.
Joseph Mason-Tweede (my father) grew up in Saddlers, St. Kitts and is one of twelve children. While my grandparents tried to provide as much as they could, my father, aunts and uncles had very little. For my family, growing up in a poor Pentecostal household was the very backbone that helped to ignite their strength and determination to provide a better life for my generation. Marlene Mason (my mother) was born in Sheffield, England to two Jamaican parents. My mother is also no stranger to struggle, adversity and defeat and despite that, she attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, which in the 1970s was a major accomplishment.
My decision to choose pharmacy was a personal one. Several years ago, my grandmother was wrongly prescribed steroids for three years, instead of only three weeks. Thankfully, the careless mistake was caught and rectified by a diligent pharmacist. Until this point I had not considered how integral pharmacists were in the healthcare field. The amount of work, knowledge, and dedication it takes to become proficient in the field is well worth the ability to prevent such mistakes and save lives. Maya Angelou once said, “The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.” Therefore, I chose to face my irrational fear of failing in order to pursue a doctorate degree at the University of Saint Joseph.
Nothing in life comes easily nor is it simply handed to us without hard work and dedication. There are not enough people of color in the medical field, and we need you. There are racial discriminations that us people of color face in every day life, however when it comes to medicine, these racial discriminations are a license to kill for our predators. Our black brothers and sisters predominantly occupy underserved populations in America, so becoming a pharmacist has a much larger mission at hand as I am determined to touch as many lives and help as many people as I possibly can. There is understandably mistrust between the black community and the health system in America due to discrimination and enough is enough. We need to protect our elders and care for them, as they have so selflessly been the roots and backbones of our existence. We need doctors, pharmacists, nurses, radiologists, chemists, microbiologists, and the list goes on. However, I remind you that the road to success is not an easy one. Each and every one of us needs to do our research, get good grades and do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. The light at the end of the tunnel may seem like it is so far away when you begin this journey of your own, however you can and will reach it.
Finding a way to succeed in the face of failure has made me stronger, more adaptable, and prepared me for future challenges. My experiences have shown that I have heart, I am driven, and I have an innate ability to empathize with patients from all over the world. I have no doubt in my mind that whoever is reading this right now has the same exact qualities. We come from a line of strong black kings and queens and power runs through our veins. Do not ever let anyone else define you. My response to the pharmacy advisor after her pessimistic outlook on my chosen career path was, “I have faith.” When my life plans did not work out in my favor or go the way I originally intended them to, I changed the plan, but never the ultimate goal. As a result of being consistent, making my parents and family proud once I graduated with my Doctor of Pharmacy degree in August 2020 was an indescribable feeling. This is only the beginning.