As the only one in her family to pursue medicine, Woodi Woodland said she missed having someone in medicine to turn to as she began her journey in medical school. That feeling has inspired her to mentor incoming students.
“Not having anyone within medicine, especially as an African American female in the U.S. at the time I was being raised, caused some self-doubt with what I wanted to pursue,” Woodland said. “It has driven me to make sure no one thinks they can’t do what they choose, and I direct a lot of my time on showing others that there is a pathway and focusing on how we can help provide the resources and bring more people, no matter what they look like, into medicine or other fields.”
Now, she serves as the 2023-2024 student trustee on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, amplifying her leadership as a representative for students statewide.
The position rotates annually among the campuses across the UT System. The student trustee serves as a non-voting member of the Board of Trustees and as a voting member of the Education, Research, and Service Committee.
Woodland said she is surprised and excited to be appointed to the position. She believes she can contribute her student and community perspectives from her years of serving as a mentor, tutor, and ambassador.
“Having experienced multiple campuses of the UT system, I can speak to a large population and advocate for students and what they see lacking in the community,” she said. “It is a huge honor. I am very excited to serve in this position for the next year and see what comes out of it.”
Woodland, from Fairfax, Virginia, and Brentwood Tennessee, is a fourth-year student in the UT Health Science Center College of Medicine pursuing otolaryngology. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2020.
She served as a tutor and ambassador while studying at UT Knoxville. Upon graduating, she chose the UTHSC College of Medicine after touring the college during her interview and witnessing its familial atmosphere. “I loved the program and the family feel,” she said. “That was probably the biggest emphasis because it brought me back to what I felt in Knoxville, which in no way is Memphis, but it was great to have the same feeling of a family and that they wanted you here.”
After arriving at UTHSC, her profound support for students continued through her roles as an ambassador. She provided tours and served as a point of contact for incoming students. She also served as a peer mentor, giving one-on-one mentorship to students, and as an MPOWER mentor for a group of first- and second-year medical students.
“I have always loved to teach, and there is a lot to be said about the ability of wanting to foster the success and education of those coming behind you, and that has always been important to me,” she said.
Woodland has also proven her drive for leadership through her time as a representative of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education action plan board, the director of communications for the Global Surgery Institute, and as the secretary of the Student Orthopedic Association. In addition, she has exhibited tremendous volunteerism in the community, including in Clínica Esperanza, a primary care clinic serving the uninsured and underserved in Memphis; the Student National Medical Association; the Boys and Girls Club of Memphis; The Gentleman’s League; and the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf.
After graduating in 2024, Woodland will pursue a residency in otolaryngology with the goal of becoming an ear, nose, and throat surgeon.
“It has been amazing to see the progression each year and how much clinical knowledge and experience can be gained,” she said. “The faculty is invested in your learning from your preclinical to your clinical years. And although my class entered at the height of the pandemic, it brought us closer together because we were in this new environment. It’s a great class and I am very excited to see where we go in our future.”
This story was initially published in the Fall 2023 College of Medicine Magazine.