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Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Learning Leadership: RISE conference reflections

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Not all of us are born to be leaders, right? After all, if everyone led, who would be the followers? To be honest, I had fully embraced the role of being a behind-the-scenes individual, happy to bring things to fruition without any desire for acknowledgment. Although I was content, I had never identified myself as a leader. Little did I know, however, that hidden beneath the veil of anonymity, I too possessed the essence of leadership.

When I thought of a leader, I envisioned someone like the President: articulate, charismatic, the center of attention. But as I have grown and progressed in my medical journey, my understanding of leadership has evolved. Leadership can be helping others reach their full potential and fulfill their life's purpose while working towards a common goal. There could be a leader within each of us, waiting to emerge.

On June 23-25, Kyle Kieffer and I attended the AAMC’s 2023 RISE Conference: Developing Future Leaders in Academic Medicine and Science in Washington, DC. The conference was filled with different workshops, discussions, and team-building activities involving relationships, influence, self-awareness, and effectiveness. Being included in a community of aspiring physician leaders, engaged in conversations and stories about the remarkable impact they were making in their schools and communities, filled me with awe and inspiration. It sparked a fire within me, awakening the realization that I possessed the potential to be an influence on my own community and the world at large. The new relationships I cultivated during this time will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Through this experience, I have also gained more self-awareness, digging deep into the bedrock of my values, strengths, and weaknesses. I discovered a new lens through which to view my imperfections—a perspective brimming with untapped potential, whispering, “I am not good at this YET." Another crucial insight I gained is that embracing our individuality and welcoming the grand mosaic of divergent ideas, thoughts, and approaches significantly enhances the effectiveness of collaboration. As a first-generation woman of color, my differences are not something to be feared or avoided, but rather cherished and embraced as catalysts for growth, innovation, and the remarkable success of collective endeavors.

I left the conference with a mantra that resounds within my very being: “Excellence does not mean perfection." As I embark on my journey to become an exceptional leader, physician, sister, daughter, and friend, I carry with me the understanding that the pursuit of excellence is nonlinear and dynamic. It is the resilience to navigate the peaks and valleys, along with the ability to surmount challenges, that ultimately distinguishes a truly remarkable leader. Here's to RISE-ing above and embracing the journey of leadership!

- Diandra Donkor, MS2

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