Thursday, June 14, 2018

Graduation Week 2018: Say Hello to Dr. Ward!

On May 24, 2018, I finally achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a physician! God is sooo good!!!! There have been so many emotions flooding through me these past few weeks, but now that I’ve finally calmed down from the high of graduation, I can reflect a little bit. I’m still at a loss of words to describe the joy I feel for this new accomplishment, so I’ll just let all the pictures speak for me. ***WARNING: Photo overload ahead!***


Hearing my name with "doctor" said in front of it as I walked across the stage was so surreal! It was even more amazing hearing the cheers of my friends and family.

My daughter has been my biggest supporter on this crazy journey. For years, she has told her teachers and friends that her mommy is a doctor. Now when she says it, it will be true! I'm so extremely thankful for her always being so understanding of my crazy schedule and the sacrifices made to get to this point. I hope I have inspired her to pursue any and all of her dreams.

So thankful for my amazing parents! My mom, who was the first African-American female from the state of Mississippi to graduate from the United States Military Academy (West Point), gave birth to the first doctor in my family. Excellence is in my DNA! And my dad is just downright awesome and not afraid put me back into reality when I get too big-headed, LOL.

My sisters are everything! I literally couldn't have made it through medical school without the support, babysitting, advice, and constant laughs they bring me. 

Thankful to this amazing guy for putting up with all my med school craziness for the past three years! Whether it was being my voice of reason when I had crazy ideas (and still supporting me when I did the crazy things anyway), listening to my rants, cheering me up during the rough times, or helping me stay current with the outside world when I got too far under my med school rock, I am so very appreciative of you! 

My circle may be small, but the love is strong! This journey would not have been anywhere near possible without the people you see above! I am truly blessed!

Thankful for everyone in my med school family. You all made this journey that much easier, and I am blessed to not only call you all my friends, but my colleagues. The GA-PCOM class of 2018 was the best to ever do it!

Check out all these beautiful black doctors! So proud of my classmates!

And of course, I couldn't end without giving a shout-out to the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). It has been such an amazing part of both my pre-medical and medical school experience, and I am proud to say that I graduated with SNMA!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Graduation Week 2018: Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal Award Reception

When your face is on your school's wall #Blessed

On day three of graduation week, I received the Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal award during a beautiful reception held in my honor. For those who aren’t aware, this medal (in memory of one of PCOM’s co-founders) is presented to students for their outstanding achievement and service to the College, the community and the osteopathic profession, is the highest award a student can receive at either PCOM campus, and only one is given each year on each campus. This award also comes with a plaque containing a portrait of the recipient placed on the school’s wall for the entire year. Since starting medical school, I always stopped and admired the portraits of the year’s recipient, and said that I wanted that to be me one day. These were AMAZING individuals who not only left their mark on my school, but the last three recipients were people who I personally knew to be caring, hard-working, and just downright awesome. To even be nominated for this award was a true honor, and I am happy that I finally accomplished my dream of having my picture placed on the wall as I joined the same ranks as these wonderful individuals.

The award reception program

The day of my award reception was actually a bittersweet one. I was excited to have my closest family, friends, and loved ones in town for the event, but an hour before the reception, I received a call saying that my great-grandmother had passed earlier that afternoon. My parents were still driving into town and hadn’t heard the news, so I then proceeded to give my mom a call with the news. I was devastated and felt like I got hit with a ton of bricks, but there was no time to be sad and process my emotions since I had to be somewhere soon that required a happy face.  

The look on my parents' faces is priceless

The reception itself was so nice that it helped take my mind off my great-grandmother’s passing. It was such a blessing to have those closest to me in attendance, and the look on my parents’ faces when they saw the program and realized I was the sole honoree was priceless. The school also invited some of my favorite professors along with SNMA members, and I enjoyed their presence. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet members of the PCOM Board of Trustees, and it was nice being able to chat with both my school’s Dean and the President of the school who were also in attendance.

Love this!

I was presented with my medal by my school’s SNMA advisor, and then I gave a short speech. Seeing my parents get all teary-eyed during the introductions and my speech absolutely made my day. My daughter even smiled a bit (which is the full extent of her getting emotional during stuff like this LOL). The medal even came with a beautifully engraved wooden box that I will forever cherish.

So happy to have these wonderful people in attendance

After all the speeches were done, it was time to take pictures. As usual, my daughter was more interested in eating the food than taking a million pictures, but I managed to get her to pose for a few. I also made sure to get some great pictures with other people in the room.

I love my family

All-in-all, the reception was an incredible blessing and my favorite highlight of graduation week. Even though my great-grandmother passed, I know she was smiling down on me that day, and it made the event even more special. If you’d like to know more about the award and see the official press release, feel free to check it out in the “features” section of my blog. My next post will be what everyone has been waiting for: Graduation Day!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Graduation Week 2018: Dinner Dance and My Little One’s Graduation

Graduation dinner happiness

The second day of graduation week was reserved for the annual dinner dance held for graduating students in all programs. This was an awesome day, not just because of the dance, but because my daughter officially graduated from the fifth grade! I can’t believe I am now the mother of a sixth grader, but I am so incredibly proud of my child and all her accomplishments.

My daughter is officially a sixth grader!

The actual event started with a nice dinner, and of course, a lot of pictures were taken. The dinner was followed by an award component, and even though I knew I was an award recipient, I was surprised to hear my name announced since my award reception would take place the following day. When my name was called, “God’s Plan” by Drake started to play, which I thought was the perfect song for me! I couldn’t help but dance a little as I walked across the dance floor to receive my award, but unfortunately, I can’t remember who caught a picture of it to share.


Another awesome thing about the dinner, other than getting to party with all my classmates (and even professors) in the same room for one last time, was getting to see our official class of 2018 banners displayed. These banners not only had our names complete with the new “DO” title, but they also showed the residencies we matched into along with the locations. I was so happy to see my classmates match into various fields such as urological surgery, internal medicine, family medicine, general surgery, and orthopedic surgery, just to name a few. I was even more shocked to see that one decided to take on an assistant professor position at an out-of-state college. Exciting futures are ahead for all us, and I am so proud of my classmates!

Loving my new title! #DoctorStatus

Overall, I’m really glad I attended the dance, and it was a great way to have fun and celebrate as graduation approached. My next post will highlight my favorite part of graduation week: receiving the Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal Award.

Women Docs!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Graduation Week 2018: A Letter to My Future Self

A Letter to my Future Self

During medical school orientation week four years ago, the staff had each of us write letters to our future graduating selves. They held onto these sealed letters, and on the first day of graduation week, the staff gave them back to us. My letter was super uplifting and made me smile. I even loved my super positive outlook on surgery back then, and how I knew that despite how match would go, surgery would remain my passion to this very day. Since I didn’t write anything too personal or crazy about myself, I figured I would share. Dated 8/15/14, it reads:

Hey Dr. Ward,

Guess what? You’ve made it! You finally accomplished your dreams of becoming a doctor and you are now on the way to the residency of your dreams. Despite the many obstacles you faced including raising a young child throughout school, you persevered and didn’t let anything stop you. I am so proud of you! Tiana is proud of you too, and she appreciates the sacrifices you made to get to this point and raise her to be the most independent and strong-willed pre-teenager that she has become.

At the time of this letter, you feared you would fail and disappoint those who believed in you. Med school was probably one of the hardest things that you have ever done in your life and you survived! You are now on your way to becoming one of the world’s best surgeons, and hopefully you matched into an amazing plastic surgery program that will take you far. If you changed your mind on plastics, I know you are still going into surgery regardless of the specialty and YOU WILL BE GREAT! I love you and take the time to enjoy this moment, because another long hard road lies ahead. But guess what, you will succeed and I’m proud of ya!

 -Danielle M. Ward

P.S. The cheddar cheese stains are from that awesome popcorn at orientation! LOL

There you have it! Even though the road ahead will be long and hard, I look forward to the ride and eventually achieving my goal of becoming a surgeon. I just might even write another letter to myself before beginning intern year in a few weeks to see if my outlook has changed a year from now. Up next, I’ll share highlights from day two of graduation week.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Graduation Week 2018: Rehearsal Fun

GA-PCOM DO Class of 2018

The first day of graduation week required a trip to campus to pick up our tams, gowns, and graduation tickets. Since rotation sites at my school take place in many different cities and states, it was the first time many of us had seen each other since our second year of medical school. It was most certainly a great reunion!

Thanks for the goodies!

The day started with trying on our graduation regalia followed by a class picture. We were dying in the heat, and the sun was shining directly in our eyes, but the photographer managed to get a great photo. He even let us take a silly class photo (above) which completely captured the fun and loving spirit of my class. The PCOM Alumni Association also gifted us with tote bags and in them were alumni lapels and a book of poems for doctors gifted by an anonymous donor. I look forward to reading it for inspiration as I make my way through residency and beyond. We were also given letters that we wrote to ourselves during orientation four years ago, but I’ll share that in a separate post. 

Love my crew :)

We realized that we probably wouldn’t have much time during graduation to take pictures, so we seized the opportunity to take group pictures that day. I’m so glad we did, because finding people after graduation was complete chaos! I’m definitely going to miss my classmates, but the world is getting great physicians, and I’m excited to see what’s in store on everyone’s journey.


The last and final highlight of the day was the awesome BBQ the school put together for us. Food is my weakness, so having my pick of veggies, burgers, ribs, mac & cheese, desserts, and a variety of other foods made for one happy lady. I also couldn’t pass up another photo op, so I was excited to take a picture and share what my PCOM degree means to me. That pretty much sums up day one of the graduation festivities. Up next, I look forward to sharing with you all the letter I wrote to myself four years ago.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Graduation Week 2018: The Beginning

We’ve finally made it to the posts everyone has been waiting for! Last week, I achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a physician, and there was plenty of excitement leading up to the big event. To save everyone the trouble of having to read one super long blog post, I will break everything up into a series of daily posts where I discuss the highlights from each day. These posts will include graduation rehearsal day, the letter I wrote to myself during orientation four years ago, graduation dinner dance highlights, my Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal award reception, and graduation day. I look forward to sharing all the special moments with you all, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

2018 NMQF Leadership Summit on Health Disparities and Spring Health Braintrust Recap

SNMA Past Presidents with Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Maxine Waters

***Yes, I know what everyone is dying to read about, but I’m still behind on the updates and I’m also in the process of revamping the blog, so bear with me for a few days and then you’ll be up-to-date on all the graduation goodies****

A few days after I returned from my trip to Colombia last month, I had the pleasure of attending the National Minority Quality Forum’s (NMQF) Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. This is a yearly summit where healthcare leaders from across the country convene to discuss healthcare issues affecting minority communities. Due to my position of being this past year’s SNMA National President, I had the pleasure of being invited as a guest of the American Medical Association (AMA) Minority Affairs Section (MAS), and they graciously covered all my expenses to attend the summit. I was especially excited to attend the summit because it is also where the 40 Under 40 Leaders in Healthcare awards are given, and two fellow past SNMA national presidents were being honored.

Love the A3 and E2 token given to me by a physician in attendance
I attended sessions with topics ranging from ending cancer disparities to reducing risky health behaviors in young adults. My daughter was not happy with all the inquisitive texts I started to send her as a result of the panel, LOL. I also got to hear from many notable speakers such as Dr. Jerome M. Adams, who currently serves as the 20th Surgeon General of the United States. It was simply an amazing experience being in a room filled with US senators, CEOs, and University Presidents, and listening to all their knowledge on various healthcare topics really inspired me. 

African American museum fun with my mentee and her fam!

On the final day of the summit, the last session ended at 245pm and the awards dinner wasn’t until 7pm, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to get in touch with my mentee who lives in the Washington D.C. area. Another plus was since I had to wake up early each morning for the summit, I was able to grab same day tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and take her and her sons to the museum. We were pushing it with time, and only had an hour and a half to spend at the museum before it closed, but it was an amazing experience. I will definitely be making plans to go back, because there was so much I missed. It was great, but it is something that a full day needs to be carved out for.

Speaking into existence: next year's 40 under 40

When it came time for the awards dinner, I had a blast! I sat next to an internist with a great personality as well as a fellow medical student representing the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). My LMSA buddy and I pretty much decided that next year we’re going for the 40 Under 40 Leaders in Healthcare Award, so be on the lookout for us! Additionally, both Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Maxine Waters were award recipients, and their speeches were so inspiring. I was elated to take selfies with both of them afterwards, and they also agreed to be a part of a picture with all the SNMA past presidents in attendance. It was an awesome experience.

Teaching, mentoring, and volunteering at a local high school

On my last day in town before flying out, I had the pleasure of being a part of the AMA’s Doctors Back to School visit in conjunction with Mentoring in Medicine. We went to a local high school and taught over 200 ninth and tenth grade males how to dissect chicken wings. My class consisted of 9th graders who were a joy to teach. I went over the anatomy of the human arm with them, related it to the chicken wing, and then we went to work. Their comments about how gross the chicken was had me cracking up. Afterwards, myself along with two physicians discussed our backgrounds and had a Q&A session with our class. It was my favorite moment of the week, and I look forward to doing more volunteering and mentoring as a physician.

That pretty much sums up my time at the summit. My next posts will be all graduation related, so get ready!
Selfies with great and influential people :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Vacation Recap - Cartagena, Colombia 2018

Hola Colombia!

Last month, I decided to be spontaneous and finally do something that was just for me. I was officially done with all of my required medical school clerkships, and had just finished my term as SNMA National President, so I had a lot more free time on my hands. Plus, with all the hustle and bustle of this past year, I was beginning to become completely burnt out and was in desperate need of a vacation. So what did I do? I booked a one-week solo trip to Cartagena, Colombia, and I enjoyed every last second of it!

Familiar faces in new places

Right after I returned home from the SNMA AMEC, I repacked my bags for my trip to Colombia. There were some amazing flight deals that I couldn’t pass up, and Cartagena kept popping up on all my searches for the best places for solo female travelers. The funny thing is that when I arrived in Cartagena, there was never a moment where I ever felt alone. Even when I arrived in Cartagena, I ran into one of the SNMA National Committee Chairs who had just been at the conference with me! We had no idea that either of us would be there, so it was a super crazy moment. She was staying not too far from my hotel, so it was nice hanging out with her and her friends while also getting my bearings and a feel for the city on the first day.

Melanin in Colombia

On the second day of my trip, I had an excursion to Playa Blanca that I booked through Alex Rocha (The Real Cartagena). Now let me just stop here and say that if you are planning any trip to Cartagena, then he is the person to go through!  I not only got to fully experience the city and areas I visited, but the tour guides were simply amazing and always on time. Plus, I had the pleasure of meeting other tourists who were a joy to hang out with. During my trip to Playa Blanca, everyone in the van was from Atlanta (I told you those flight deals were crazy lol), and I had a blast with the ladies on the trip. We were taken to a secluded area of the beach that had very few people stopping by to bug us with selling things, and it included a delicious lunch, and a tour to some lesser traveled areas of the city. It was definitely a great way to ring in my vacation, and I ended the evening with a nice dinner at a lovely French restaurant called Restaurant Montmartre. 

Ser Negro es Hermoso

On day three, I participated in “The real Cartagena” tour and was floored by all the beauty in the city. Not only is over 75% of the population in Cartagena black, but after a visit by President Obama in 2012, the “Ser Negro es Hermoso” (Black is Beautiful) movement was started. The city is literally filled with murals and statues celebrating black people. I was in heaven! Plus, there was more great food involved, and I got to interact with more awesome tourists. After the excursion, I went to the Choco Museum and participated in a 2-hour class that involved making chocolate straight from the cocoa bean. It not only was a fun experience, but I also ran into more Americans who invited me to spend the next day with them on a boat. There was no way I was passing that up!

Had a blast with great new people

On day four, I met up with the guys who I met the night before and spent the day having an absolute blast! It was also kinda cool finally hanging out with people who didn’t live in Atlanta, and being from the northeast, they were actually familiar with PCOM. They rented a boat for the day and we were taken to a beautiful private island that was literally a party. There were underwater huts where food and drinks were delivered to us, music, and a ton of people partying on their boats. It was a surreal experience, and I literally had the time of my life!

Wakanda Forever! (Even in Colombia lol)

Day five involved a trip to Palenque, which is the first free African village in the Americas and established completely by runaway slaves/freedom seekers. I was immersed in the culture, had more great food, and loved being around beautiful black faces. I also got my tour group to do the Wakanda pose!

A night on the party bus with other solo female travelers

When I arrived back to the hotel that day, I found that the power was completely out in the old walled city where I was staying. Luckily, the HOTEL I was staying at had a great rooftop bar with unlimited ice and drinks for everyone. I stayed there for a while sipping on drinks with my feet in the pool, and then as the sun was setting, I took a beautiful horse-drawn carriage ride through the old walled city. I then remembered I had signed up for the Chiva (Party) bus that evening, so I returned to my hotel room, managed to get dressed in the dark, and went out for some fun. It was great dancing the night away while meeting more fun tourists, and when I returned to the hotel, the power was finally back on!

Med students in Colombia!

I had reserved day 6 for relaxation and exploring, so I slept in and started my day with a trip to the Historic Museum of Cartagena. I spent a few hours there learning about the history of the city I was in, and then I decided to go check out the Gold Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed that day, but I was directed to the Emerald Museum next door. It was here where I ran into two more tourists who not only also lived in Atlanta, but they happened to also be two 4th year medical students from Morehouse School of Medicine who just matched into orthopedic surgery. How crazy is that?!?! We hung out a bit and then went our separate ways, but agreed to reconnect later. After that, I explored some more, managed to have dinner in the famous Don Juan Restaurant without a reservation (yay for being solo and cute! lol), and then reconnected with the med students I met earlier. We hung out, discussed our medical journeys, and then hit the club where I got the DJ to play my favorite songs and played pool with Canadians.

Met so many awesome people in Colombia

On my last full day in Cartagena, I took a trip to the museum, visited the university, and invited a few of the people I met during my time in Cartagena for a beautiful sunset dinner overlooking the ocean. We somehow ended up just having drinks and then hitting a pizza place afterwards, but it was an excellent ending to what couldn’t have been a more perfect trip. Cartagena was the ultimate trip of self-care, fun, and relaxation, and when the next morning came, I was not ready to leave at all. Out of all the trips I have taken, it currently stands as my favorite, and I can’t wait to return again.

A great ending to an amazing vacation!

Loved my hotel!

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