Beselot Birhanu ’17, also known as Bessy, grew up in the Bronx, New York, as the daughter of a political asylee from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Growing up, Bessy attended the Prep for Prep program (Contingent XXIX) and Ethical Culture Fieldston School (Class of 2013). This program and school are dedicated to providing academic and social guidance and progressive education, respectively, to its students. Bessy’s background and upbringing cultivated her interest in health disparities, and her passion for advocacy grew with time. Bessy is a fourth-year medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), applying to combined Medicine-Pediatrics residency programs.
While at Amherst College, Bessy was heavily involved in the pre-health community. Bessy volunteered as a Massachusetts-certified emergency medical technician with Amherst College Emergency Medical Services and co-led Project Salud and the Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program. She was also a resident counselor for three years, a member of the African and Caribbean Students’ Union, and upright bassist in a jazz combo group. Bessy feels her anthropology degree at Amherst still informs her humanistic and holistic view of medicine.
After graduating and completing the post-baccalaureate program at Amherst, she returned to New York to attend medical school at ISMMS. As a medical student, she was co-director of the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program. As co-director, she helped expand resources to provide remote forensic medical evaluations to asylum seekers in detention centers. Bessy was also a member of the Executive Board of the ISMMS chapter of the Student National Medical Association during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a member, she partnered with the administration to advocate for systemic anti-racism changes throughout the medical school and hospital system.
Recently, Bessy has become more involved in promoting equity through other channels by serving as an MD admissions committee member and a curricular redesign committee member. Due to her experiences, Bessy remains passionate about reducing health disparities and looks forward to engaging in global health opportunities while serving migrant and refugee communities.
Q: Tell us about a job you did not get or take. How did this shape your career path?
A: I did not take more traditional clinical research coordinator roles after graduating, and I don’t regret it! Now as a member of the admissions committee, I enjoy seeing the many non-traditional paths people take into medicine and the unique perspectives they bring. Every applicant is different, and I think it is far more important to do work that is both meaningful to you and demonstrates that you are willing to challenge yourself and grow.
(Bessy and friends at Commencement Weekend.)