Edvard Gumbs, a second-year medical student who hails from Iselin, NJ, felt the benefit of strong mentorship before Cooper Medical School of Rowan University ever opened – long before mentorship was expressed as one of the seven core values integral to the CMSRU mission.
Though he was a history major at Cornell, Eddy always intended to pursue medical school, so he made sure to take all the science courses he could throughout his undergraduate career, and he became active in the Cornell organizations geared toward premed students. In 2006, as a junior, he attended an event hosted by Cornell’s Black Biomedical and Technical Association (BBMTA). Also attending that evening was Tyrone G. Bristol, MD, a Cornell alumnus who had returned to speak to his alma mater’s undergraduate students about his career as a pediatrician. The night would prove to be very meaningful, as it marked the beginning of a relationship that would be very important to Eddy for years to come – a relationship with someone Eddy calls “a constant source of support, encouragement, and honest and sound advice.”
After the panel discussion, Eddy and Dr. Bristol spoke, and they agreed to keep in touch – and they did! One of the main differences between Eddy’s interactions with other alums at the BBMTA conference and with Dr. Bristol was that there was prompt follow up and an early commitment to being a resource. From the beginning, Dr. Bristol was very direct and open about mentoring and his willingness to help Eddy. Eddy was seeking a mentor who didn’t just “talk the talk,” but who would actually deliver. Dr. Bristol did so immediately. Eddy knew early on that Dr. Bristol was someone who would be a source of knowledge and professional support, but he never imagined just how large a role his mentor would play over time. Eddy reflects, “after eight years as a mentor and trusted advisor, Dr. Bristol is also an incredible friend and confidant.”
When he graduated from Cornell in 2007, Eddy wasn’t quite sure how to take the next steps toward his dream of becoming a physician. He was pleased that he had majored in history – always a passion of his – as an undergrad. But even though he had worked as an Emergency Medical Technician in high school and college, he knew he was lacking some of the experiences that usually expose premed students to the healthcare field. He hadn’t shadowed any physicians, for example. He didn’t have any experience in a biological or medical research environment. He hadn’t worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant. In short, he wasn’t sure how competitive an applicant he would be. Eddy decided to take a year to figure things out. He took a job with a local staffing company and began to pursue his master’s degree on a part-time basis at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) – now part of Rutgers University – studying biomedical sciences.
Dr. Bristol, Eddy’s mentor, had other ideas. As Eddy explains, “Dr. Bristol was instrumental in helping me reorganize my life and focusing me on taking the proper steps towards medical school acceptance.” He encouraged Eddy to pursue his graduate studies full time and to take on a medically related job in a hospital, as an ER Lab Tech. Eddy felt empowered – things were really moving.
2010 ushered in a time of highs, lows, tough decisions, and hard work. Eddy graduated from UMDNJ’s graduate program in biomedical sciences and applied to medical school…but his application was unsuccessful. He once again turned to his mentor, Dr. Bristol. And Dr. Bristol, who has served on admissions committees for medical schools and has mentored a good number of successful medical students and physicians over the years, knew Eddy needed advice that would be hard to hear: Eddy needed to return to school and remediate his science courses to become a stronger applicant.
Eddy appreciates the “consistency and no-holds-barred mentality” of his relationship with Dr. Bristol. “He tells me the truth – sometimes the harsh truth! – and I respect him so much for holding the mirror to my face.” Though the truth was perhaps painful, Eddy heeded Dr. Bristol’s advice and returned to undergraduate school, retaking courses in chemistry and physics at Kean University. And it was the best thing he could have done, Eddy explains. “The extra year was really the time I needed,” he says. His newly strengthened foundation in the sciences improved his MCAT scores, and though he was “physically, emotionally, and financially drained, he was determined (and stubborn!)” and ready to undertake his second round of medical school applications.
CMSRU was among the medical schools that Eddy applied to because he was intrigued by our website, reflecting a new and interesting mission that was very different from the other schools he investigated. It seemed to be a school that would be in line with his personal mission to make medicine more diverse and to have a positive impact on the world.
“I remember the date. January 24, 2013. I was at work at Newark Community Health Center, and it was 10am. I had been to CMSRU the week before for Interview Day, and things had gone really well. I was so hopeful. I had spent five years constantly revamping, reevaluating, and improving myself, holding on to my dream of attending medical school and always working with my mentor, Dr. Bristol, to put the pieces of the puzzle into place. And on that day it happened – I got the email that changed everything.”
Eddy had been accepted into CMSRU’s second graduating class – the Class of 2017. Of course he called his family. His mother was beyond ecstatic on the phone, emotional and overjoyed to hear the wonderful news. But before he even called his mom, Eddy called Dr. Bristol to share the news of his CMSRU acceptance with the mentor who had constantly motivated and guided him. The two shared a lot of smiles and good feelings over the phone that day, then got to work setting goals.
“Goal setting,” Eddy explains,” is a very important part of my relationship with Dr. Bristol. We talk about and set goals for the short term, medium term, and long term.” Before Eddy even started at CMSRU, for example, he and Dr. Bristol set a goal that Eddy would make it through the first semester and pass all his exams. Those short-term goals might not seem too lofty, but they are critical to Eddy because, as his mentor understands, he needs focused, workable goals that will motivate him toward specific achievements, all of which are necessary for the larger accomplishments and goals to fall into place.
Medical school, according to Eddy, is very challenging. It requires immense time, commitment, dedication, and sacrifice. Among the things that make it manageable is his relationship with his classmates. He has bonded with the students in his Active Learning Group, classmates in his Advisory College, Service Learning, extracurricular activities...and through his student mentor at CMSRU: Susan Talamini, a member of CMSRU's charter class, the Class of 2016.
Susan is, according to Eddy, “fun, whole-hearted, dedicated, thoughtful, and an all-around genuine individual,” and working with her has made Eddy really look forward to mentoring a first-year medical student. He explains that Susan has exemplified what a mentor should be – someone who speaks from experience and can be a supportive confidant without judgment and share in successes. A mentor who is there for it all.
Eddy and Susan have found time for the lighter side of medical school together, as well, and have started a tradition they both hope will last long into the future. “I inherited her pink Anatomy scrubs” Eddy boasts, “and wore them to the Anatomy lab this past year!” The plan is for Eddy to pass Susan’s pink Anatomy scrubs down through their mentorship lineage, with Eddy giving them to the still unknown first-year student who will become Eddy’s mentee in late August.
Mentorship, according to Eddy, is a neverending process of passing along a gift that improves all individuals linked to the chain. He has always been supportive of younger friends who have had challenges and offered his advice when asked. He has also had a unique and meaningful experience as a mentor to his cousin, Brian Linton, who is currently a rising senior at his alma mater Cornell.
Eddy recognized the academic promise Brian displayed at an early age. Eddy remembers, “I was in college, and Brian would call me to ask for help with some of his homework or school projects. He was only in middle school at the time! Brian was so dedicated to his studies and committed to excelling that it took me back to a time when I was in his exact position. I knew he was motivated and I wanted to a part of it. Our mentor/mentee relationship happened organically, and Brian was very open about asking for help. Learning from my own shortcomings, I always stressed to him that asking for help was the smartest thing he could ever do!”
In the years to come, when Brian began searching for potential colleges to attend, his cousin and mentor Eddy was overjoyed to learn that Brian was considering Cornell. They even traveled to Ithaca together in the spring of Brian’s junior year to visit the campus and meet with faculty and members of the Admissions staff. Eddy says that Brian “seemed thrilled to be there, and I remembered the feeling of stepping foot on that campus for the first time, only eight years prior to Brian.” Hearing about Brian’s acceptance to Cornell gave Eddy an extreme sense of pride. Brian has gone on to excel at Cornell, and the family and mentoring relationship between these two cousins is stronger than ever.
Who will wear Susan Talamini’s Anatomy scrubs – the pink ones Eddy Gumbs proudly wore – the ones that mark a proud lineage of mentorship at CMSRU? We don’t know yet. But Eddy is confident that he will bring to that relationship the weight of the special mentorship bonds that have shaped his life. Eddy will treat that relationship seriously, and know that mentorship is one of CMSRU’s core values because it can, and does, change lives.