How UM-Flint helped Da'Quan become an Anatomy PhD student

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Da'quan craven jumping in front of first street residence hall
Left: Da'quan was an active resident of First Street Residence Hall. Right: Now he's a PhD Student at the Indiana University College of Medicine.

Da'Quan Craven's life was transformed during his time as a University of Michigan-Flint student. He wasn't an exemplary student in high school, but moving four times across three different cities would have an effect on anyone's studies. His goals were simple when he started college. "I didn't want to be poor anymore," Da'Quan says of his mindset that first semester.

Nine years later, Da'Quan holds two master's degrees and is the first Black PhD student in the Anatomy, Cell Biology and Physiology graduate program at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Da'Quan's realized his interest in Anatomy was a possible career pathway during his time at UM-Flint, thanks to an introductory A&P course taught by Lecturer IV in Biology Liz Malinowski.

"Everyone was telling me how A&P is going to be so hard and I'll be lucky to get a C," explains Da'quan. "But I got through it thanks to help from Liz. I owe her a great deal for igniting my passion for anatomy itself AND my passion for teaching it to others."

UM-Flint undergraduates can take several courses in the campus cadaver lab, including Bio 433: Premedical Gross Anatomy.

Da'Quan spent less than two years with UM-Flint – he transferred to Georgia State to be closer with family – but he made the most of his time here. He took advantage of his professors' office hours, having long talks with Malinowski and Associate Professor Karmen Hollis-Etter. In addition to working closely with those supportive faculty, Da'Quan was a UM-Flint Promise Scholar (which was then called "Challenge Program"). The Promise Scholars program helps motivated students who underperformed in high school continue their studies with UM-Flint, offering additional scholarships and community experiences along the way.

"It was meaningful to have that comradery and the ability to talk with other students that may have had a different educational background than most college students," Da'Quan says.

Now that he's studying for his PhD, Da'Quan is working to uplift others. He co-founded @BlackinAnatomy, a group focused on amplifying Black contributions to the anatomical sciences. One goal: to increase willed body donations in the Black community. Da'Quan explains that body donors aren't very diverse, and health students seeing themselves represented in the cadaver lab can help in the learning process. "It would feel like, family is helping me learn this difficult topic. There's a level of comfort with that."

After earning his doctorate, Da'Quan plans to become an anatomy educator, and maybe even a community college president. He explains the community college setting would be a great setting to make the impacts he would like to see in his career. Since community college is often the higher education starting point for many students from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing leadership in that setting can set those students up for success later on in their studies.

Even though he didn't earn his degree from UM-Flint, Da'Quan's experiences highlight the life-changing experiences students can gain by choosing the tight-knit, supportive learning community found on this campus. According to CAS Dean Susan Gano-Phillips, "There is no greater compliment that we can receive as educators than our students going on to do amazing things. It is especially inspiring that Da'Quan credits his experiences with faculty and staff at UM-Flint with launching his educational and career trajectory. It is phenomenal to think that Da'Quan will take the lessons he learned from our faculty to uplift and encourage his own students in the future."

Learn more about Biology at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.