Third-year med student wins Sarah Loguen Fraser Scholarship

SUNY Upstate medical Sarah Loguen Day

Krista Tookhan, center, receives her Sarah Loguen Fraser Scholarship plaque from Alvin Roberts, left, coordinator of Upstate's Cross Cultural Awareness and Retention, and Bruce Simmons, MD, right, president of the Medical Alumni Association board of directors. Krista, a third-year medical student, plans to specialize in pediatrics. The Medical Alumni Association sponsors the annual scholarship.

Third-year medical student Krista Tookhan has been awarded Upstate’s Sarah Loguen Fraser Scholarship, named in honor of the pioneering physician who was the first African-American woman to graduate — in 1876 — from what later became Upstate’s College of Medicine.

Krista’s scholarship, sponsored by the Medical Alumni Association, was announced during Sarah Loguen Fraser Day Wednesday in Medical Alumni Auditorium. The annual award is presented to an Upstate medical student who exemplifies the values of Dr. Loguen, one of the country’s first female African-American physicians.

Krista, a native of the Bahamas, plans a career in pediatrics. Her autobiographical essay follows:

SUNY Upstate medical student

Upstate medical student Krista Tookhan.

I’ve always been somewhat of a dreamer.  I guess this all began when I was born in a dream-like environment on a beautiful October morning in Nassau, Bahamas.  I was the youngest of three children born to my parents.  My mom worked as a receptionist and my dad was a small business owner.

My parents could not afford to give us all the luxuries of life, but made a commitment to ensure that we did receive what they considered to be most important – an education.  My parents sacrificed to ensure that my siblings and I received the best education possible at a small private high school in Nassau.

While in high school I decided that because of my love of science and people, I wanted to become a doctor.  I was fortunate enough to earn a few scholarships that afforded me the opportunity to attend the University of Miami.

After graduation, I decided to take some time off and gain some work experience before committing myself to a long career as a physician.  I eventually landed a job teaching biology at a school for juvenile offenders.

Never had I imagined that I would work in such an area, but quickly became very aware and sensitive to the injustices in our society, especially where this population is concerned.  I loved my job, and advocated for my students’ education for five years.

I was still being nagged, however, by my desire to practice medicine.  I decided to apply to medical school to fulfill my dream.  During the time I was applying to medical schools I married my amazing husband; and two days after gaining acceptance to Upstate’s Medical School found out we were expecting our first child.

As excited as we were to begin our family, our emotions were mixed with feelings of fear and doubt.  I had always considered that being a woman in medicine would require some difficult decisions about child-rearing.  I never imagined that I would begin my career trying to “have it all” balancing medicine and a family.

My husband and I decided to defer acceptance to the following year, and I would begin medical school with a nine-month old baby.

Three years later, as we are quickly approaching the final year of medical school, I can confidently say that you can “have it all.”  These three years have been challenging academically, financially and emotionally; with the help of our family, friends, and our Upstate family we have been able to make it this far.

I have decided to pursue a career in pediatrics, in hopes of being able to work with and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.  I hope to be able to help in the fight for access to care for children, especially mental health care.

I have also recently become very passionate about vaccination programs for children, and ensuring the public receives factual information about vaccinations.  I believe a great pediatrician must be a great advocator; and this now is my dream.

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