Diversity in Strengths and Strength in Diversity

04 Oct 2021

By Marianna Hernandez Brandi

When my mom and I moved to Cincinnati, OH in 2005, I was placed in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. I remember when the teacher would come into my home room and call out for me in front of all my classmates to announce that it was time for our one-on-one session. I was always so annoyed. I did not have much of a background, if any, in speaking English, but I felt that being singled out daily inhibited me from being able to fully immerse myself in the classroom with the other students. It took me less than a month to complain enough to my mom about this situation for her to advocate for me to no longer attend ESL classes.

Throughout my life, I never felt that I was particularly gifted at test taking or school. In elementary school and high school I was “above average”, as they say, but I never thought of myself as overtly talented in the classroom. It took me only three months, however, from when I first immigrated to the states to feel 100% assimilated to American culture and the English language. My parents and I realized that I had an ability to incorporate myself within a culture and a society without much difficulty at all. This is a skill that I continued to use throughout most aspects of life all the way from starting college, studying abroad, and being on medical school clinical clerkships to making relationships with mentors and classmates.

I say all this not to highlight how wonderful I am at adapting to new environments, but to call attention to the fact that this attribute has been celebrated and exalted by many throughout my life. Although initially labeled as “above average” when I was younger, I quickly went to being “hardly average” when it came to standardized test-taking and performing well in the classroom. I always had the great luck and privilege, however, to have mentors and colleagues that value the diversity in my strengths and appreciate my attributes in a similar way than one might celebrate a strong test-taker.

In this day and age, more attention is being given to the power of a diverse workforce. We are beginning to, as a society, grasp a better understanding and form a more wholesome picture of what makes a “strong student” or a “good doctor”. This is giving room for individuals with varying strengths to have a seat at the table. I know that I would not be where I am and would not be entering a surgery residency application season, were it not for the army of individuals who have celebrated my accomplishments and strengths even when they have looked different from my peers’. My task to you all, whether a student, faculty member, or whomever you may be: build each other up and continue to celebrate diversity in strengths, as it will make room for a stronger workforce and a more representative and diverse future for us all!

Marianna Hernandez Brandi is a fourth-year medical student at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine applying into General Surgery this fall. She received her B.S in Neuroscience and B.A in Italian Studies from The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. She is interested in many fields within General Surgery and is excited to see what she ends up pursuing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, trying out new restaurants and traveling to new places. You can follow her on Twitter @mariannahb_ 

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.