A Conversation with JRF alumnus, Dr. Melvin Bullock

November 17, 2015 - Alumni

A Conversation with…

Dr. Melvin Bullock

JRF Class of 2001

What’s the most fulfilling part of your job? 

I enjoy interacting with patients and helping solve their problems.  It is such an amazing feeling to see them progress after coming in really sick and leaving well.  GI is a procedure-based field, with colonoscopies being one of the most popular. In the African American community, there is a stigma about receiving basic screenings.  Not enough of us get the basic procedures for identifying colon cancer. 

Is it easier for patients to overcome this stigma when there is a cultural connection? 

Because minority communities have a fear of finding out what’s going on,   

it’s a little bit easier when there is a cultural connection.  There aren’t many African American GI’s.  Some of the Black and minority patients might feel a little more comfortable.  It’s especially important to recognize the different guidelines for screenings.  For African Americans it’s age 45 to begin colon cancer screening and 50 for other patients.  There are many primary care physicians who don’t know that the age range is different, so it’s important to not put everyone in one box. 

What stands out most about your time as a Scholar?

The networking weekend stands out most, especially the cutting-edge discussions hosted in the small groups.  In many cases, JRF was the only venue for addressing tough, bold topics.  The socializing and networking was definitely a highlight.

What do young professionals need to succeed?

Medicine is such a long process.  To succeed, you have to find mentors who you want to emulate.  When you’re a resident and doing so much training, it’s not just what you learn like didactic stuff.   It’s the experience of interacting with other physicians, hospital administration, and patients.   It’s about good mentorship. You’re around a lot of different doctors and you’ll see how they interact with patients.  You’ll take note of the professionals who do well engaging with patients and say, “That’s how I’d like my practice to be.” 

Why give back? 

I didn’t get to this place in life on my own.  It wasn’t just me.  There were so many people who helped me along the way.  Giving back is an obligation.  One of my personal trainers wants to go into medicine so now he shadows me.  I remember being a student and wanting to shadow someone.  It was hard.  I always looked for places to volunteer and now I’m in a position to do the same.  The exposure influenced me and it feels good to give back. When you’re young and in high school,  it’s hard to find those mentors.  When I interact with residents who want to go into GI, I remember what it was like to be in that position.  I needed so much to help and now I am in a position to help to others.   


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