Jheneal Atkinson poses outside of Tisch Library on April 24, 2018. Madeleine Oliver / The Tufts Daily

How Tufts Works: Really pre-med

Jheneal Atkinson is a Resumed Education for Adult Learning (R.E.A.L.) student in her second year at Tufts. Not only is she part of the R.E.A.L. program here at Tufts, but she has also spent her life studying medicine and plans to go to medical school after graduating from Tufts.

Atkinson was introduced to the medical field at a young age. Growing up, she volunteered in hospitals and shadowed doctors through academic programs. Unfortunately, a family emergency that forced Atkinson to leave college during her second year at the University of Georgia temporarily derailed her plans to pursue medicine professionally.

After a few years, though, Atkinson re-joined the work force as a medical scribe for an organization called ScribeAmerica. After undergoing a rigorous training process, she excelled at the job and quickly advanced through the company’s hierarchy. Within a year, she was in a leadership role traveling around the country to train new hires.

While she thoroughly enjoyed the job, being a scribe was not the career that Atkinson had envisioned for herself. Instead, she knew that she wanted to go to medical school. As such, she was overjoyed when she was accepted to the R.E.A.L. program and matriculated into Tufts in spring 2017, along with her identical twin sister, Jheanelle.

However, returning to school as an adult is no simple task. The daunting nature of the transition was only eased by the fact that her sister was by her side.

“I am lucky in the respect that I have a support system here,” she said, in reference to her twin sister.

But Atkinson is a living example of the idea that success takes much more than luck; her journey has required a great deal of individual effort. When she first started at Tufts, Atkinson was also working two time-consuming jobs. On top of waking up at three in the morning, working four-hour shifts at Old Navy and attending full days of classes, Atkinson was a part-time pharmacy technician.

Since that time, Atkinson insisted that she has managed to strike a more reasonable balance in her schedule. Yet, she still manages to put most of us to shame: Her idea of balance is replacing the job at Old Navy with an on-call tutoring gig in Spanish and biology.

Atkinson’s ability to juggle many competing commitments comes from years of experience. Her first-rate time management skills will undoubtedly be an asset to her throughout medical school and beyond. Additionally, Atkinson said that not being afraid to ask for help is a major strength of hers. Throughout her time here, she has made sure to take advantage of the available resources.

She also attributed a great deal of her success at Tufts to her professors and academic advisors.

“Everyone here has been incredibly understanding,” she said.

She appreciates that people have been willing to accommodate her individual needs, which often do not align with those of the traditional undergraduate.

Atkinson emphasized that Tufts has worked well for her. It seems to me, however, that she deserves just as much of the credit for her success.

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