Marquita Hicks was going to be President of the United States one day.

This was her ambition, growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Hicks was surrounded by family as she moved through childhood. Her grandparents owned a local beauty shop, Trammell’s Beauty and Barber Supply, and everyone in the family worked there in some capacity. Even Hicks’ accountant father pitched in on the weekends.

Her close-knit family encouraged her to believe that any goal was possible. Both of her parents were college educated, and her grandfather had considered medical school after getting his bachelor’s degree. Ultimately, that dream was sacrificed to the necessities of raising a family, but the importance of education was passed down to the succeeding RS7622 Marquita Hicks 34 scrgenerations.

“It was in middle school,” Hicks remembers, “that I thought I might want to be a doctor instead of President.”

Hicks always enjoyed science and math, and when her mother started taking her to an African American female physician, Hicks had a sense she had found her calling. Dr. Martha A. Flowers, the physician, was happy to share information about the field of medicine.

Flowers was one of only two female African American physicians in Pine Bluff at the time, although there was a large African American population. Hicks attended a predominantly black high school, where she graduated as co-valedictorian.

Attending a predominantly black high school made her college adjustment somewhat jarring. Hendrix College, in Conway, Arkansas, was a small liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church – and it was primarily white. “I went from being in the majority,” Hicks says, “to really being in the minority.”

As it happened, Hendrix was exactly the right choice. The small student body – consisting of roughly 1,000 undergraduates – and attentiveness of the professors created a nurturing environment for the young chemistry major. Hicks remembers struggling in her first semester chemistry class, and asking for help from her professor. That professor not only tutored her, but became her advisor and took a personal interest in her academic development.

During the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college, Hicks worked in the office of her childhood physician, Dr. Flowers, and received prolonged exposure to life as a medical practitioner. The experience solidified her decision to pursue a career in medicine.

Through Dr. Flowers, Hicks learned of a summer health care pipeline program at Tulane University, where undergraduates could be exposed to the health professions. She applied for the program and was accepted.

As she considered her options for medical school, Hicks sent letters to the office for diversity at several universities. The University of Kansas was the only one to respond. The Dean informed her of a summer pipeline program, similar to the one at Tulane, that would allow her to interview for the medical school, and so Hicks spent the summer between her junior and senior years at the University of Kansas.

“I’m a product of the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP),” Hicks says. It’s one of the reasons I believe in it so strongly now.”

It seemed like her dream might have encountered a significant setback, however, as she neared the end of her senior year of college. Instead of being admitted to medical school at the University of Kansas, she was accepted into their post-baccalaureate program, which involved a conditional acceptance to medical school the following year. Hicks seized the opportunity, and spent that year preparing for medical school.

One unexpected way in which that post-baccalaureate year prepared her for a medical career was in exposing her to emergency medicine. During that year, she worked as a registration clerk in the emergency room for a little additional income. She observed how everyone in the ER seemed to work as a team.

This motivated her to reach out to the emergency department during medical school. “It was the one place where I felt like you could just meet people where they are,” Hicks says. “You take care of everybody, no matter what their story is. People don’t plan on coming to the ER. That is one of the places where you have to pull in skills from resuscitation to communication in a short period of time in order to assess and manage patient care. I think it’s a special field. We’re all a team when we’re working together. That’s exciting.”

Following an internship at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and residency training at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Hicks worked for a year and a half in the Henry Ford Health System in Dearborn, Michigan. She was hired at UAB in 2008, where she not only performs clinical work as an emergency medicine physician, but serves as the Director of Community Engagement for the Office for Diversity & Inclusion Student Affairs.

But Hicks’ professional development didn’t stop there. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration, which she hopes will help her develop the skills to manage people and resources better on an administrative level. She balances her graduate work with her career, her marriage, and raising a 9-year-old son.

A beneficiary of summer pipeline programs to assist women and underrepresented minorities succeed in the health care professions, Hicks is a driving force behind UAB School of Medicine’s summer pipeline programs, most notably the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which will enjoy its second year of operations in 2018. Prior to that, Hicks spearheaded the UAB Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), which reached out to economically and educationally disadvantaged students from 6th-grade through college.

When asked what advice she would give young people thinking of following in her footsteps, Hicks is reflective. “Be true to yourself,” she says. “And remember it’s not the failure or the setback – it’s about the recovery. During life, there will be setbacks; you must cultivate resilience. What will you do to recover from that situation? How will you improve it next time?”