My fellowship journey began several years ago when my mentor recommended that I apply. I never really knew what that would entail and how it would change my life. I knew I wanted to change life and to impact my community, as a scientist I assess how my research was able to influence policies not just at a local level but internationally as well. I initially focused on meeting deadlines and showing results on the investment that Bush Foundation has given me. However, through my mentoring team, I came to realize that I should be focusing on my personal well-being. This was a major learning piece to my reality. I was accustomed to work all the time but not accustomed to taking time off. In addition, I was completely, as with everyone else, thrown off with the effects of the pandemic. It was a unique time that is engrained into the fabric of life, and I was not sure how we would be able to change the world, if the world is about to self-destruct. Nonetheless, we persevered and came out of this pandemic enlightened. In fact, I think there is a blessing with the pandemic and the lockdowns because it enabled me time to think about the essence of life and where my place is in the world. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have told myself 2-years ago to live, to enjoy, to reflect, and to hope that we will be alright. Instead, I focused on ramifications of the future and not lived the moment. However, I set my goals as I usually have and was able to execute them.
First, I learned the value of understanding unmet needs of the medical industry. To have joined the Bakken Medical Devices Center at the University of Minnesota was an eye opener for me. I learned how to take a concept from ideation to prototyping and on the verge of commercialization. This was fantastic! In addition, I was able to apply my clinical and biomedical research experiences to solicit funds to help with our prototyping. In the year and a half that I was at the University of Minnesota, we were able to secure close to $600,000 for our medical device development. This is a blessing. However, along the way, challenges were confronted. Internal disputes between members were a reality. Asking challenging and having uncomfortable conversations were warranted. It has thought me that irrespective of the environment, conflicts and competing interests are not problematic necessarily, but lack of leadership and lack of common directionality were a combination for disaster. I am still learning to this day how I will need to manage these situations, and one this is always clear. COMMUNICATION. COMMUNICATION. COMMUNICATION. When you think you have communicated, still communicate, and repeat yourself. This is how my father raised us to think and live life.
Second, I was reserved and timid of engaging with key figures in industry and investors. Although I was very comfortable with engaging members of academia and the community, what was a shortcoming for me in the beginning was how to engage key figures in industry and investors. After having several meetings and taking business courses, I became a bit comfortable and was able to engage as I normally have. This comfort did not occur until the second year of my fellowship. It is unfortunate in my mind in that had I known and felt comfortable about myself, I would have made more connections. Nonetheless, I am still able to engage and have discussions of ways we can still increase the number of women and racial/ethnic minorities in clinical trials and medical device development. Additionally, one major theme that came to my understanding was that these individuals all had the intention to help build a more inclusive community, especially after the George Floyd murder, however, they did not know how to go about doing this. Thus, it was apparent to me that perhaps I could help facilitate or help build bridges between entities historically not intertwined. Which brings me to my consulting company.
Third, through discussions and the support of my mentors, I decided to apply what I have learned throughout my Bush Fellowship in practice. I decided to incorporate a company called Umeed Consulting LLC, and to build a team of clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, educators, behavioral specialists, and community engaged experts to help inform and build a network of interdependent entities. This can help our region improve our standing and directly measure the impact we have on our community at large. Currently, I am meeting with entities such as the SBA and other small business incubators to help launch our idea and translate my ideals into action. One of the current challenges I am facing is financial and figuring out how I could improve visibility and rapport. This will be daunting task, but doable, nonetheless.
Fourth, intentionality is the key to what we want to accomplish if we want it to be fruitful. I have been living my life to run after goals and dreams; and I have not really given myself the chance to best learn what my intentions are for the actions I was making. Through my reflections, I started to ask why what I am doing is important and how I can best change and impact my environment? This gives me a sense of purpose and a sense of informed direction. The Bush Fellowship helped me to think more about this, whereas previously I learned to just complete tasks and regurgitate data. That’s all. Through my meetings and discussions with various stakeholders, I needed to showcase a path, a vision, and direction that was intentionally orchestrated to make sure we are having the best knowledge and outcomes that we can possible. I believe if we think of each individual in society to be valuable and equal to us, then and only then do we see a meaningful impact and understanding of our actions.
Lastly, I am very grateful and fortunate to have been selected as a member of the 2020 Bush Fellows. This opportunity has opened my eyes to a reality of which I never thought even existed. It enabled me to dream big and to execute whatever thoughts I had without having the barriers of support. I see a world that the only way forward is to be intentional in our thinking, our strategies, and our implementation. The old guards have their strengths and weaknesses, it is on us to ensure we pave way for a new path that focuses on a lens of equity. As an individual of the scientific community and a minority, I see my place in this world to be a force to ensure all individuals benefit from what society can offer. I am humbled and still excited to have been welcomed to the Bush Foundation family. Once a Bush Fellow, Always a Bush Fellow. Our work is just getting started! Thank you.