At her fifth-grade graduation ceremony, Maya Merriweather confidently told the audience that, when she grew up, she wanted to be a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.
“They all just kind of looked at me like, ‘wow, someone so small knows words so big,’” she recalled with a laugh.
Merriweather’s childhood dream to become a doctor never faltered. She had a keen interest in science, loved to watch health programs on the Discovery Channel and attended space camp. In elementary school, she job-shadowed a doctor at a family medicine practice and made her first diagnosis of a patient. In high school, she completed a medical internship, and then went on to study biology at the University of Arkansas.
This spring, she earned her medical degree and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Arkansas College of Medicine, and she matched into the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology residency program at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Merriweather is proud and excited for this next stage in her career.
It’s true that her interests changed a bit since the fifth grade: She won’t be a cardiothoracic surgeon because a maternal-fetal medicine rotation during her third-year clerkship solidified her interest in OB-GYN.
The specialty existed in an essential cross-section, where she can apply her daily work in the medical field to an equally deep desire to serve and uplift underrepresented populations.
As a medical student, Merriweather, along with her longtime friend and Texas medical student Antonio Igbokidi, founded Melanin is the New Medicine, LLC, with the goal of increasing diversity in their field.
The business serves as a resource to people of color and minorities who are interested in medicine. Merriweather and Igbokidi serve as mentors to students applying for medical school. They answer questions, host mock interviews, coach students through the application process and help them prepare to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). They also engage in community service that aims to educate, excite and spark an interest in medicine among young people of color.
Merriweather said the closer she got to her medical degree, the less and less she saw herself in the professionals around her. She and Igbokidi felt a need to fill that void. Some of the help they provide includes advising students on how to navigate a career in medicine as a person of color. It’s guidance she wishes she’d had along her journey, she said.
As Merriweather prepares to leave Arkansas, she’s unsure of the future of Melanin is the New Medicine. She’s incredibly proud of the work they did and would like to continue it in the future; but they’re trying to determine what the work looks like from several states apart.
Looking ahead, Merriweather is eager to start a new chapter in Indianapolis. She’s never lived outside of Arkansas, so it’s exciting to think about all the new possibilities and adventures that come with living in a new place.
And there’s a lot with the OB-GYN specialty and life at IU School of Medicine to look forward to as well, Merriweather said.
She was pleased to have matched with IU for residency because the OB-GYN department offered a well-rounded program, with training in all aspects of care. She knows, once her training is done and she begins practicing on her own, she’ll be prepared to handle any situation.
IU “really put their money where their mouth is” with regards to diversity and inclusion, Merriweather said, which made the university an even more appealing option.
It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes to think that she really is a doctor now, Merriweather said, and she’s sure it will be a bit shocking and emotional the first time she hears someone call her Dr. Merriweather. But she knows her years of setting goals, chasing dreams and working incredibly hard have finally paid off.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...