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Tiayrra Kirkwood

Aspects of a Learner | Tiayrra Kirkwood

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Tiayrra Kirkwood - MEDPREP Class of 2021

Before enrolling in SIU’s post-baccalaureate preparatory program, Chicago Heights native Tiayrra Kirkwood was a caseworker for the State of Illinois.

What did you want to be when you were young? 

Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be a physician. I had a Fisher-Price medical kit filled with Band-Aids, a thermometer, a blood pressure cuff, and even a stethoscope! I loved going around playing “doctor” with my friends and family.

Tell us about your life prior to entering MEDPREP. 

I was a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Human Services, working 8:30 to 5. Those were the office hours, and it still was not enough time.

As caseworkers, we’d see a steady stream of clients, arguably some of the most disadvantaged in our society. It was my mission to ensure they knew that I was there to be of service to them. I felt privileged to be an advocate for the individuals and families I assisted. I’d listen and observe their needs, then provide targeted solutions to lead them on a path of self-sufficiency. The experience really increased my capacity for empathy. I see similarities in a physician’s role to help ease a patient’s health burdens, to increase their quality of life and overall self-sufficiency.

What do you love most about the program? Your career path?

MEDPREP is such a supportive environment. Every MEDPREP student can be labeled as disadvantaged in some way, yet we are all in the same room because MEDPREP is our second chance at achieving our dreams. There’s truly nothing like walking into a building and knowing that every single person in there is rooting for you to succeed.

For my career, I’m glad I will be able to serve my community in a significant way. For many, going to the doctor is such an intimidating thing. I want to help ease those fears by building trust with my patients. Listening to them and their concerns, then taking that information and providing them with a treatment plan that takes them and their specific history into account.

What are your plans after earning your degree? 

I have not chosen a specialty yet. I want to remain open-minded to all my options; however, I do know that it is very important to me to serve marginalized populations. From my time as a caseworker, I know these are the communities and populations I feel drawn to serve.

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