In a staggering statistic, the percentage of black male medical students hasn't changed much in more than 46 years. It hovers at just under 3%. Boys Hope Girls Hope is saying, "Yes, you can!" to scholars with a dream to become doctors. Dwayne Thomas II, along with several other Boys Hope Girls Hope collegians, is doing his part to challenge that number as he studies at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Dwayne grew up in East Baltimore, Maryland with his parents as the second oldest child of five. Education was always a priority for his mother, so when the headmaster of his school recommended him for Boys Hope Girls Hope at age 11, the family said yes. Just as Dwayne was moving into the residence, his newborn baby sister was diagnosed with cancer. It was a life-changing event that would shape Dwayne's passion and purpose. Dwayne had always felt like a caretaker of his mom and siblings, and in moving to Boys Hope Girls Hope, he "had to let go and know things were going to be okay."
"Boys Hope Girls Hope kept the structure and motivation in place," says Dwayne. "It's a family." He says the most valuable aspects of his time in the program are the network of connections with incredible people, which has taken him a long way in life. He also notes the mentoring, the conversations that he didn't want to hear but challenged him, and the feeling of ownership and agency.
After receiving his undergraduate degrees from Loyola University Maryland in biology, Spanish language, and literature, Dwayne worked in cancer research at Johns Hopkins for several years. His baby sister is nearly 17, and Dwayne is deciding between general surgery or internal medicine for his residency specialty. His ultimate goal is to become a medical or surgical oncologist. It's not an easy or inexpensive proposition, but Dwayne is taking advantage of scholarships and a recent selection to serve in the Navy to help him fund the remainder of his education.
"People need doctors who look like them," Dwayne says. He's passionate about ensuring more people of color go into medicine, and STEM fields in general. It's why he speaks to students who are considering applying to medical school, serves in the Surgical Interest Society, partners with the local SEED School to bolster interest in science, and sits on the Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore Program Committee. "I want to help raise those numbers," says Dwayne. “I’m very blessed to be in the situation I’m in, to be medically trained and educated at an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities). I think it is going to equip me well to practice medicine in underserved communities, especially for men and women of color.”
He's convinced that Boys Hope Girls Hope helped to funnel his life journey into more of a direct path. "When times are tough, I remember I've only ever wanted to do this, and I won't give up," he says, "There are so many people who are in your circle and rooting for you, and countless opportunities Boys Hope Girls Hope provides. It empowers you to go forth and set the world on fire."