Medical School

Jayla and Jayda Watkins

The Paths They Each Took to Medical School Were Unique

First-year MCW medical students Jayda and Jayla have each earned a spot in the class on their own, which is no small feat in and of itself. What makes their story doubly impressive is that Jayda and Jayla, with the last name Watkins, are identical twins born just 13 minutes apart. Unofficially, they are the first set of identical female twins to be accepted into MCW’s MD program.

While the paths they each took to medical school were unique, as with all siblings, they had similar experiences earlier in life that shaped their views and goals. And these experiences led them to similar conclusions about what they wished to do professionally.

WatkinsThese experiences include watching science shows on the Discovery Channel instead of cartoons when they were children, and, as teenagers, witnessing their aunt have a complicated pregnancy that led to the baby having a stroke in the womb. Another experience that had an impact on both was noticing that their father, who is African American and a pharmacist, did not look like many other people in healthcare.

“Growing up, we didn’t see many minorities practicing medicine,” Jayla said.

“We didn’t see a lot of African American representation in science,” Jayda added. “I saw my dad doing something that not many people who looked like me did, and I really wanted to change that.”

This last point drives both of them. Jayda said she is really excited about getting involved in MCW’s diversity efforts, and Jayla, who participated in MCW’s Diversity Summer Health-Related Research Education Program (DSHREP), said she wants to serve as a student mentor to help those who grew up with fewer academic opportunities.

“I hope to have a lasting impact on impoverished communities,” Jayla said.

MCW’s DSHREP program helps undergraduate students develop an understanding of critical issues in basic science and clinical research. While in the program, Jayla worked in the lab of Balaraman Kalyanaraman, PhD, Harry R. & Angeline E. Quadracci Professor in Parkinson’s Research and chair of biophysics, studying compounds that impact neurodegeneration.

Despite leaving Milwaukee for their undergraduate studies, Jayla and Jayda both wanted to go to MCW for medical school.

“The resources we have available to us as MCW students makes it feel like the school was built just for us,” Jayda said.

“How MCW faculty interact with the students is very nurturing,” Jayla added. “People are very welcoming.”

Being a twin definitely has its benefits, as both Jayla and Jayda will admit, but there are drawbacks as well. At least there was during the medical school interviewing process. Jayla received her letter for an interview a full week before Jayda did, which made for a VERY long week for Jayda.

“It was a long seven days,” Jayda said. “It would have been much easier if I didn’t know the letters had gone out, but I did. I thought my dream of going to med school was over.”

Luckily for Jayda, who is the older of the two, it worked out well. She and her younger sister are able to continue pursuing their professional dreams together. 

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