One of the first things you notice about first-year Geisel student Kevin Doré is his high energy level, which is not frenetic, but cheerfully enthusiastic, so much so that one of his anatomy lab professors asked him if he drinks too much coffee. Dore’s reply, “No, this is the way I am. I love what I’m doing!”
Prior to medical school, Doré, a self-described optimist, spent two years as junior high school science teacher in an infamous and devastatingly poor Chicago neighborhood. As the son of a teacher, he learned early the important role of education—without an education it is difficult to move your life forward his mother advised. After college he took a teaching job, arriving at an Avalon Park school via Teach for America, which gives recent college graduates an opportunity to become influential educators.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” he says, “and the most difficult and rewarding thing I’ve done so far.”
Appalled by the declining quality of Chicago’s poor inner-city schools where some eighth-graders couldn’t read or do simple math, Doré wanted to make an immediate difference. But he was also keenly aware of the ‘big picture’ issue of how education is evolving against the cultural backdrop of poverty.
All of his students were receiving either a free or reduced-cost lunch; many ate breakfast at the school, and many had parents in jail. The school’s neighborhood was rife with gang violence with shootings and a murder near the school. Living in an unstable environment with daily threats to personal safety often results in emotional and social instability as well as academic decline.
“On my first day when I asked a student to sit down, and she threw her backpack at me,” Doré recalls. “I also had students who in anger threw desks against the wall—things you don’t expect in a traditional classroom.”
Facing high levels of anger and distrust, Doré persevered because of his belief in the power of education and his desire to instill a love of learning in his students. He believed in them and provided social support by coaching their basketball team, often driving several of the boys home from practice keeping them safe from gang violence. Over time, his students put their faith and trust in Doré, developing mutually deep relationships. And through his mentorship, along with their hard work, many of his students tested above their grade level in science.
“It was rewarding when they tested at the high school level,” Doré says. “But for me it wasn’t about the grades, it was about instilling in them a passion for science—my goal was to get them interested in science as a career.”
What really convinced me to pursue medicine are the untenable health issues prevalent in low-income communities…”
– Kevin Doré ’19
Given his love of teaching, Doré says his decision to become a physician was circuitous. “I love teaching and could have continued,” he says. “What really convinced me to pursue medicine are the untenable health issues prevalent in low-income communities—a few of my students had type 2 diabetes that wasn’t well managed and the school would serve pretzels and chocolate milk for breakfast. I couldn’t imagine living like that.”
This confluence of education and health, coupled with a desire to change both systems, led him to the Geisel School of Medicine.
“There is a huge intersection between education and health outcomes,” the altruistic Doré says, “and that’s something I’m passionate about—I want to work with individual patients while also working on this broader issue and Dartmouth is the perfect place to train for that.”
He is especially enthusiastic about Geisel’s new healthcare delivery science course. “In this course we are exploring the big picture issues that I’m interested in,” he explains. The course challenges students to analyze and develop innovative health care delivery policies in an effort to improve outcomes and lower costs. “The potential application of these ideas to health systems that serve low-income communities has been particularly inspiring.”
The appealing thing about Dartmouth, he notes, is the true diversity of its community and its lively mix of different perspectives students bring to healthcare issues. “That’s one of the reasons I love Dartmouth so much. I feel that someone like me really fits in here,” he says.
Equally motivated by his former students, Doré says, “They drive me everyday; I know I can use this opportunity that has been granted to me to make myself better, and in turn help others like them to make education and health care better in communities like those on the south side of Chicago.”
Teachable moments are not always obvious, but Doré has had at least one such moment. “The other day, a teacher from Avalon Park sent me a photo of a drawing one of my former students created in art class—the image was of a young woman ‘reaching for my goal to become a doctor and go to Dartmouth.’”
When thinking about the power and influence of an institution such as Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and how he can use his experience to make a difference in the world Doré says, “I don’t think this could happen anywhere else.”