When Tima Kaba ‘19 returned from a short post-graduate fellowship in Tanzania, she was unemployed and uncertain of the future. Today, she is in her dream job, coordinating clinical research at the University of Florida College of Medicine as she prepares for her eventual entry to medical school.
So how does a French major land a job in clinical research? With intelligence, persistence, savvy mentorship — and a great network.
You can major in the humanities and still qualify for medical school
Kaba’s faculty advisors ensured she fulfilled the requirements for medical school while she pursued her other academic interests. A lot of creativity ensued as she used her knowledge of French as a springboard to conduct research in French-speaking countries.
Kaba conducted a summer research project that explored the physiological and psychological impacts of FGC on women in Guinea and Senegal. She studied abroad for a semester in Botswana as part of a community public health program where she interned at local clinics. Her post-graduate fellowship in Tanzania, through the Davis Projects for Peace, focused on clinical workshops for women.
“We always worked hard to help Tima find the opportunities she needed for her career in medicine while she studied French,” says Christine Armstrong, a professor of French and Kaba’s advisor.
She recalls a month-long seminar in Martinique organized by the French program. “Tima conducted research on the impact of decomposing sargassum on this French Caribbean island’s coastal population. In addition to reading scholarly and news articles on the issue, she interviewed local public health administrators, residents, and business owners to understand the full scope of this seaweed invasion on people’s health.”
Each step along the way Kaba sharpened her passion for clinical research and its positive effects on proper healthcare. And she gathered the skills and knowledge that eventually allowed her to break into the field.
Denison networks make things possible
A connection with a Denison alum gave Kaba her first job in healthcare, but as is the case with many people as they launch their career, things didn’t happen in a straight line.
“A few weeks after my return, I found a marketing job; a month in, I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. I quit my job, and I was back at square one,” says Kaba. She realized she had to focus on her real proclivity for clinical research.
“Luckily, there was always a Denison alum somewhere. I connected with an alum on LinkedIn, and we set up a time for a call.”
“I applied for several clinical research positions, no luck. I would receive rejection emails back to back on a daily basis, but I didn’t let this discourage me. If anything, it motivated me to keep applying,” says Kaba, who turned to LinkedIn for much of her job research.
“Luckily, there was always a Denison alum somewhere. I connected with an alum on LinkedIn, and we set up a time for a call. He put in touch with the research team at OhioHealth, and that’s how I landed my first research coordinator position.”
That position eventually led Kaba to her role at the Florida College of Medicine. She offers some advice for students and graduates in their career searches: “Don’t shy away from asking for help or reaching out to an alum. Your next job could be an email or a LinkedIn message away — Lastly, do not let rejection discourage you, let it build your character!”
The Liberal Arts prepare you for any career
Kabe has found that the skills she learned during college are what employers are looking for. “I find that employers seek to recruit autonomous individuals who can carry on their role with integrity, inclusiveness, and compassion. While it is important to have hard skills you need to successfully do your job; soft skills are equally important.”
Finding success as an immigrant
Kaba was drawn to study French in part because she immigrated to the US from Guinea where French is the national language. “My dad suggested I take a couple of French classes so that when I return home I can communicate with people. Also, when I become a physician I would like to travel back and forth to practice medicine in Guinea,” she says.
And Kaba is already working to improve things in her native country. Recently, she started asking local hospitals to donate PPE, gloves, masks, and needles to send to local clinics in Guinea. “If readers are in the healthcare field, and would like to contribute, please reach me at email@example.com.”