Advocacy leads students to medical school

Head and shoulders professional portraits of Leana Dogbe and Danielle Somerville against a background image of Penn State College of Medicine.Leana Dogbe and Danielle Somerville

Leana Dogbe and Danielle Somerville are on the journey to becoming doctors. While they took different paths to arrive at Penn State College of Medicine, the first-year medical students’ journeys share one thing in common – advocacy.

April 1, 2022Penn State College of Medicine News

Dogbe, who grew up in Ghana, points to the 2005 death of a childhood friend from influenza as her reason for wanting to become a physician.

“I had a friend pass away because of the inadequate medical care that was given in the neighborhood we were living in,” said Dogbe, whose goal is to one day become a pediatric surgeon. “I thought ‘I should probably get into this field to take care of my family, friends and other people around me.’”

Dogbe is part of the most diverse class of first-year medical students ever seen in the U.S. She’s also learning how race has affected patient care.

“As we’re going through medical school, we are being taught multiple times about all of these different things with racial injustice. I think that some physicians are really improving when it comes to that, and it also depends on the community you’re in and the community you’re practicing in,” Dogbe said.

Somerville — whose passion for community service, social justice and advocacy were nurtured by experiences on mission trips — first came to the College of Medicine as a public health researcher where she worked on projects that covered aspects of child abuse and how to protect vulnerable children. That experience led her to apply for medical school.

Somerville believes the historic increase in enrollment of Black and brown students in medical schools across the U.S. is deeply connected to the national reckoning that took place after the death of George Floyd in 2020.

“I feel like it’s a combination of all those things. Like racial justice, protests, national pressure and an awareness of these disparities that have been amplified by COVID and wanting to respond by increasing diversity in the medical field,” Somerville said.

Read more about Dogbe’s journey to becoming a doctor

Read more about Somerville’s path to medical school

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