Last week, fifth graders at the Edison K-8 School were treated to a very special Pathfinders visit from Dr. Nina Marlowe, a psychiatrist, BPIE mentor, and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. Students listened attentively to how she navigated her career, including the challenge of applying to medical school. Nina applied to 18 medical schools with no acceptances, but her perseverance finally paid off as she eventually got into one school – a medical school for women – and attended for two years before transferring. When she applied to transfer, Nina was accepted to every school she applied to. She shared, “I was the same person, nothing had changed, but I had proven that I could do the work.”

Nina highlighted personal connections along with academics during her visit. She shared, “There are so many ways to help people, and being a doctor is just one way. For instance, I met a trolley driver while living in San Francisco who was always cheerful and helped set the tone for my day.” Nina emphasized how these seemingly small and nuanced connections can make a difference in someone’s life. Nina went on to share, “There are a lot of hard jobs out there. Teaching is a hard job. Being a kid is a hard job. Sometimes having a hard job can help you decide how you want to help people.”

After sharing her background, Nina shifted the conversation to mental health and personal wellness, which led to an insightful and provocative discussion on many pertinent issues young people are facing today. Students openly shared stressful situations they had witnessed or experienced, while Nina thoughtfully engaged students on techniques to handle crisis situations. Nina made sure to emphasize that “it’s not the student’s job to prevent bad things from happening, but what they CAN do is to tell a grownup if they know someone is having a difficult time.” 

This visit truly highlighted the importance of the Pathfinders program’s divergence from Big Cheese Reads, connecting students more authentically to a range of careers and allowing for a broader array of perspectives from professionals across various points in their career trajectory. Beyond career exploration, Nina’s visit had a powerful impact on the students by creating space to embrace a relevant discussion around mental health and compassion.