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Alena Wicker is the youngest student accepted to medical school

After completing two degrees – yes, two – 13-year-old Alena Wicker is off to medical school, making her the youngest person ever to do so. 

Most of us will remember being 13. For Gen-Z, it was a time filled with Tamagotchi and Justin Bieber.

Our proudest accomplishments probably involved a particularly successful take on hair gems, or a well-crafted music video taken on our parents’ hand-held camcorder.

In any case, these nostalgia-tinged memories certainly didn’t involve acceptance to medical school.

But for Alena Wicker, who turned 13 this year, farfetched dreams really do become reality. After studying for two degrees simultaneously, at both Arizona State University and Oakwood University, Wicker has been offered a place at University of Alabama Heersink School of Medicine, where she will enrol in 2024.

Wicker tells the Washington Post that despite her precociousness, she’s ‘still a normal 13-year-old’. Alena also shies away from self-glorifying, and instead puts her academic prowess down to a humble work ethic;  ‘I just have extremely good time management skills and I’m very disciplined’.

Her medical dreams are rooted in a sense of community, and a hope to pave new roads for others like her. ‘I really want to leave my mark on the world. And lead a group of girls that know what they can do’.

A job in the medical field wasn’t always Alena’s first choice, however. The pre-teen initially envisioned herself working for NASA as an engineer, after she was accepted onto ASU’s engineering program at 12-years-old.

It was only after volunteering in viral immunology that Alena realised she wanted to give back to others via healthcare.

‘What I want from healthcare, is to really show these underrepresented communities that we can help, that we can find cures for their viruses.’

When Alena starts medical school next year, she’ll be 10 years younger than the average incoming med student. And her age wasn’t the only odd stacked against her; only 7% of all applicants are accepted into US medical schools, and only 7% of those are Black students.

In this vain, it’s important to note that it was Alena’s time working with the Brown STEM Girl Foundation that triggered a passion for helping others. The scholarship program aims to remove financial barriers that prevent young girls of colour from going to college.

According to Maryville University, women comprise only 28% of the current science and engineering workforce. Within that, women of colour comprise just 5%.

Initiatives surrounding Black women in STEM are growing, though. Black Girls Movement, like the Brown STEM Girl Foundation, is tackling the barriers that hold back young women of colour from accessing top-tier education and entering the workforce.

Despite impediments like racism and poverty, Black Girls Movement believes that education – especially in the STEM field – is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty for Black women.

Alena Wicker is a testament to the goals of these organisations, and proof of what can happen when those goals are realised.

By opening doors for young girls like Wicker, Brown STEM Girl Foundation has allowed her to cultivate a confidence that transcends age, and defies social expectation.

‘You’re not too young to do anything.’ Alena told the Washington Post. ‘I feel like I have proven to myself that I can do anything that I put my heart and mind to.’

When you consider Wicker’s astonishing academic career has taken off before she reaches 14 – a career woven in amongst ‘typical’ teenage activities like soccer, baking, and socialising with friends – it would be hard to disagree with her.

 

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