Q & A
Alden Landry and Latrice Goosby

Alden Landry and Latrice Goosby are a well-credentialed couple. Between them, they have two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s and one medical degree, with another M.D. and a Ph.D. on the way.

Landry, 26, is in the second year of his residency in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Goosby, 27, has taken a more indirect path to her medical education. After graduating from Tufts University in 2002, she got her master’s at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition, focusing on racial health disparities and heart disease, and is now a joint M.D. (class of ’11) and Ph.D. (’10) student at the Tufts School of Medicine and the Friedman School.

Both were heavily involved in the Student National Medical Association, an organization devoted to helping students of color in the medical field. Landry was on the association’s national board of directors as a medical student, and Goosby is currently a member of the Tufts chapter.

The two met in the summer of 2003, when Goosby attended a summer prep course at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where Landry was earning his M.D., and were married two years ago this month. Here, they talk about why they went into medicine, why more people like them don’t, and their advice for young minority students.

Why did you choose careers in medicine?

Alden Landry: My grandmother was a nurse and she was one of my biggest influences. She would tell me about her experiences and how much she enjoyed helping people and I liked that … But you have more autonomy as a physician. You’re able to make your own decisions and really care for the patient, whether it’s by adjusting medications or performing surgeries, which are opportunities that you wouldn’t have in nursing.

I enjoy the complexity that comes with the job. You have to work on your feet. You have to make snap decisions. You’re dealing with the most crucial thing there is — somebody’s life. I’m doing a job that makes me think, that makes me use all my abilities, and that I enjoy doing.

Latrice Goosby: I had, in my family, a lot of health issues, and I remember as a child always wanting to be able to do something. We had a lot of preterm births in my family, and I remember looking at my baby cousins in the incubator in the hospital with all these things attached to them, wanting to at least know what was going on so I could explain it to my family.

What does diversity mean to you? How have you encountered diversity in your education and jobs?

AL: To me, diversity means making sure that every part of the community that you’re working in is represented. Unfortunately, as you go further up in medicine, there’s less and less diversity. When I was an undergrad, I was around a bunch of people who looked like me, talked like me, had the same ideas as me, and they were all going into medicine. But as I progressed on to medical school and residency, the number of people that made it dropped off, and you had fewer and fewer minorities.

Why do you think that is?

AL: It’s so many things. Some of it’s cultural. Some of it’s the stigma that comes along with being the smart kid in school. And some it is financial. The cost of this [profession] is ridiculous; the average medical student is anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 in debt, and those numbers can be overwhelming [for] someone who’s coming from a poor background. There are a lot of other things you can go into that are going to be less work and better pay, and it’s a shorter path. I think the delayed gratification is what really turns a lot of people off.

Where do you see your niche in medicine? Why did you choose your fields?

LG: I got started in the community health program at Tufts. We talked a lot about the importance of engaging the community in their own health — not just saying, “This is what you need to do,” but actually having them own a larger share of their health responsibility … I was never satisfied with the “treatment-only” paradigm of Western medicine, and I wanted a way to incorporate the community health principles I learned. It seemed to me that prevention was the key, and there was so much more I wanted to learn about nutrition and activity, which are ways that everyone can have a little control over their health. So I went to get my degree in nutrition with the idea that I would incorporate it into a medical practice later.

AL: I chose emergency medicine because you have to think on your feet and make quick decisions, and you get to do a lot of procedures. … People come to us as a last resort and when they see us, they’re usually in dire straits. I feel like I’m saving lives every day.

You were both involved the Student National Medical Association. Can you talk about that?

LG: At the high school level, we bring kids from all over Boston to campus, where they get exposed to all different sides of health and science careers. They work in the labs, they listen to their own heartbeats and measure each other’s blood pressures, and we also take some time to talk to them about college application process. At the undergrad level, we do a lot of med school outreach — talking to them about the process, working on their interview skills, things like that.

Do you have any advice for young people thinking about a career in medicine?

AL: Follow your heart. I have friends who never saw me as a doctor, and now I’m a year and a half away from being a full-fledged attending. I’ve learned so much over the past 11 or so years that I’ve been doing this. I’ve grown so much as a person, and I think that anybody who has the desire to go into medicine should do it. You have to look past the initial upfront work because on the downstream end of it, the benefits outweigh all the sacrifices that you’re going to have to make.

LG: I think that a lot of people get discouraged. I had a lot of classmates who, if they knew they weren’t ready in their junior year when people start the med school process, they just gave up. I didn’t take a straight path to medicine, and it’s worked out well for me. If it’s something you want, just keep pushing for it. What you find, too, with a lot of minorities is that the preparedness from high school may not have given them what they needed to do really well in college. So maybe they didn’t do really well in their sciences, or they took the MCAT (the Medical College Admission Test) and got discouraged because it’s hard. But everyone finds the MCAT hard, and very few people get the score they were looking for the first time. So take it again, and if you need to take some extra courses to get you ready, do that. If you feel like your path isn’t a direct one from undergraduate to medical school, don’t fear that.

AL: There are also a lot of summer programs and after-school programs for high school students to close that gap. You just have to be proactive. Get on the Internet, look up medical schools, find their office of minority affairs and see what they have to offer. Set up a good support system that will help you get where you want to be.