From Washington, D.C., to Greece to Arizona, Benjamin Allen, a senior cell and molecular biology major from Trenton, says his passion for traveling has only grown through the opportunities he’s had at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
As a Ned Ray McWherter Institute Innovator, University Scholar, Pre-Med Scholar, teaching assistant for the Department of Chemistry and Physics and legacy student (multiple family members are UT Martin graduates), Allen says the impact of the professional and personal development opportunities he has received while in college have been “tremendous,” but the chance to travel has influenced him the most.
“The opportunities I’ve had to travel and experience different cultures and ways of life have shown me how much I enjoy being around people with different backgrounds from my own,” Allen said. “By observing people’s different approaches to various tasks, I’ve developed a great appreciation for said differences; they make us each unique but also connects us.”
While he has enjoyed exploring the world outside of West Tennessee, his experiences have led him to realize the importance of understanding other cultures and languages for his future career in the medical field.
With a pre-med track and a minor in Spanish, Allen is preparing himself to help others receive the care and treatment they need without fear of a language barrier.
“I like the aspect of rehabilitating someone, getting them back on their feet,” Allen said. “In medicine, and this goes along with the Spanish minor, I’m really passionate about immigrant health care because they are underrepresented in health care and being provided for. … I would like to increase the opportunity for and the quality of health care for immigrants.”
Allen has seen firsthand how difficult and frustrating it can be for both Spanish-speaking people in need of medical attention and medical professionals who don’t know Spanish to interact and properly receive and administer care. While shadowing a physician, Allen witnessed a challenging interaction with an injured Hispanic man and a physician who didn’t understand Spanish and realized that knowing just a few words in Spanish could have helped the situation immensely.
“I’ve learned that diversity of background brings diversity of thought, and this helps make us more empathetic and eliminate our subconscious biases. This goes hand in hand with my desire to help with immigrants because I know how hard it can be to adapt to a new culture, particularly if you don’t speak the language,” Allen explained. “I’d be honored to help ease this process and make them feel welcomed and cared for.”
Now as Allen prepares for medical school, he knows his experiences studying Spanish and traveling through programs at UT Martin will help set him apart and benefit his career as a surgeon.
As someone who has taken advantage of the many student organizations on campus, Allen encourages all students to pursue something they love.
“Find something that you’re passionate about (for a career),” Allen said. “You don’t have to know the first, second or even third year; you may even graduate without knowing. My advice is just find something that you really want to do, and do what it takes to get there.”