Pre-Health Core Studies ‘14
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania ‘19
University of Pennsylvania, Pre-Health Programs, 2014
The University of Chicago, Master of Arts, Public Policy Studies and Master of Arts, Social Sciences, 2006
University of California, Berkeley, Political Science and Legal Studies, 2004
Mark Meisarah started college when he was 15 and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, when he was 19. He studied the politics of law and pursued his love of ballet and dancing. Mark found investigating how minority groups accessed the American legal system to create social change to be fascinating. This led him to pursue his master’s degrees in social sciences and public policy at the University of Chicago. It’s also where he started examining queer and gender theory and its intersection with identity politics of LGBT political movements and in-group marginalization of ethnic and racial minorities and gender non-conforming individuals.
Given the breadth of his academic interests, Mark sought advice from his mentors. Should he go on to earn his doctorate or enter the workforce? Mark decided to focus on public policy and was hired by Raytheon, the American defense contractor. Based in Arizona, he collaborated with engineers and program management teams to develop policies concerning the use of specialty metals in missile systems. After two years he was ready for a new challenge and when Mark was recruited by Lockheed Martin, he moved to Philadelphia. There, he negotiated contracts for new business opportunities and programs in renewable energy.
In 2009, Mark was recruited to lead contracts management for the North American operations of an Israeli military armor company and moved to Washington, D.C. He then joined Mav6, LLC, a defense firm that develops intelligence and reconnaissance technologies for the US military, as its head of contracts and procurement. He loved how he was able to combine his education and experience but, at age 28, he felt he had reached a natural stopping point in his career.
“I was still dancing, which allowed me to do a lot of soul-searching before making a career move. I wondered if I wanted to pursue a law degree and return to my previous academic interests. Or, did I want to pursue a graduate degree in dance science and focus on the physicality of dance and the health of performing artists? To help me decide, I volunteered at Georgetown University Hospital’s Emergency Department and experienced what it was like working in a medical environment.
When I eventually went into an outpatient setting, that’s when I knew I wanted to go to medical school. I loved being in a clinical environment, studying machinations of the body and disease and having the opportunity to interact with individuals and focus on their health and well-being. So, I looked for post-baccalaureate programs to complete the basic science courses I needed for medical school.
When I looked at programs, multiple linkage options were important to me. Success in medical school can depend on finding the right fit, so I didn’t want a feeder program that only funneled you into its own medical school. Academically, I wanted to develop a solid foundation in the sciences, which I found in Penn’s challenging, yet collaborative learning environment. Outside of school, having clinical volunteering and research opportunities were paramount, as was being in a city where I already had a network of friends and mentors. Penn and Philadelphia offered all of this and more.
What you put into the program is what you will get out of it. The curriculum is rigorous and there are many experiences to be gained, but there are also plenty of resources available to help you succeed. The advisors are wonderful and supportive. I met with my advisor every month and used her as a sounding board to discuss my constantly evolving interest in medicine.
I volunteer at free clinics serving youth and transgender populations at the Mazzoni Center, which is an LGBT health and wellness center, and the Washington West Project. I am learning about unique needs of this patient population and how the stigmas, socioeconomic and political disadvantages I studied in graduate school translate into disparities in access to care and health outcomes. I found the resiliency of individual patients incredibly inspiring. By learning about their dreams, the challenges and adversities they face, I think about how I can one day become their advocate as a physician.
Additionally, I shadowed Adolescent Medicine physicians at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I also assist with research projects on HIV testing and treatment among young transgender women and, separately, looked into the use of mobile technology to improve medication adherence among HIV-positive youth. Youth, and specifically sexual minority youth are one of the groups at highest risk for HIV infection due to a variety of individual and systemic factors. There are many challenges to prevention and sustained engagement throughout the HIV continuum of care. As a result of my time at Children’s Hospital, I find there are so many opportunities to exercise cultural humility when you meet these young adults where they are, and, hopefully, to make a difference in their health and lives, especially during the formative years of adolescence.
Through linkage, I have been accepted into Penn’s School of Medicine and will start in August. It is exciting to make progress toward my career goals. I am currently planning to pursue a career in adolescent medicine, but I would like to further my initial interests in sports medicine and orthopedics. I’m also considering furthering my social justice interests in medicine and law by pursuing dual medical and law degrees.
Before I start medical school, I am going to Thailand and then California to visit my family. They have been incredibly supportive of my career change and journey.
I truly see Penn as not just providing a rigorous science program; with the help of its professors, advisors and wonderful mentors, it offered me a transitional period to explore the art of doctoring with the science of medicine, solidifying my clinical and research interest in medicine.”