Emnet Yibeltal

VCU SAEP alum Emnet Yibeltal has a heart for medicine, and uses his life experiences and dedicated work ethic to guide his passion.

Emnet Yibeltal

Pipeline program: Summer Academic Enrichment Program (2014)
Year in school: First year medicine student in the VCU School of Medicine
High school/hometown: Dandii Boru School, Bole, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Interview Date: Fall 2015

Emnet Yibeltal became interested in the health sciences as a young boy. This desire to know and do more was fostered by family, educators and an internal drive to persist and never accept failure.  Yibeltal used the support he received to guide him in what he described as an evolving dream.

“It wasn’t a sort of epiphany like, ‘Oh my god this is something I want to do,’ for some people it is, but... for me it was a development,” recalled Yibeltal. “The idea of becoming a physician… developed more strongly as I considered how I wanted to contribute to society, so I would say that it grew from small moments of inspiration.”

Yibeltal emigrated from Ethiopia to the United States when he was 19 years old and embarked on his dream by first attending Northern Virginia Community College and then transferring to VCU in the fall of 2011.  While in school, Yibeltal sought out diverse experiences to help inform his decision by shadowing and translating Amharic in clinics in NW DC and practicing as an EMT.  

“If you were just thinking about medicine, I think that experience of... being a part of the team that delivers healthcare, it’s very enlightening, it’ll let you know whether you want to pursue medicine more,” recommended Yibeltal.

Gaining academic experience was also important and after learning about the Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP), Yibeltal applied but did not get in his first year at VCU.  While disappointed, Yibeltal became more resolved to reapply, which he did in 2014 and was accepted.  During this time in his career however, Yibeltal had to make a decision between preparing for the MCATs or attending SAEP over the summer.  Yibeltal asked for advice from the VCU School of Medicine (SOM) and from the Division for Health Sciences Diversity.  

“I ended up choosing SAEP and I think it was one of the best decisions I made in my undergraduate career,” Yibeltal reflected.

The interprofessional and personal relationships Yibeltal made during SAEP were valuable, but he also deemed the program to be a constructive tool that reinforced his belief in continuous hard work, and showed him areas to improve upon.  Taking these lessons to heart, Yibeltal took his MCAT immediately after SAEP and was accepted into VCU SOM.   

As a first year, Yibeltal concedes that professional school is not easy, but that it’s the challenge of learning in addition to his passion that keeps it interesting and motivating.  Now that his dream is materializing, Yibeltal believes it is still evolving when he considers where he will specialize.

“I’m very confident with the resources that are available... that I’ll figure out what I want to do. The guidance is there,” says Yibeltal.  “It’s a process, but there’s so many people who’ve done what you’re wanting to do, especially in the City of Richmond, that you can easily attach yourself to a mentor and gain the valuable information that you need.”

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