Nicole Hughes, Class of 2022

Each story is unique, intimate, and powerful. Readers, please come open-minded and ready to engage with the following stories. More importantly, be ready to interface with an intimate space and allow yourself to step inside someone else’s life. The following is the narrative of Nicole Hughes, a second-year medical student at KUMC.


Can you give me a one-minute summary of your life?

I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am the first person in my family to go to college. I started playing volleyball in high school and ended up getting recruited for colleges so I thought, well, maybe this is a possibility for me. I ended up majoring in psychology because I thought it was easy and interesting. I met my husband and he asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I really had no idea – I never thought past graduation. After a lot of soul searching I decided I wanted to apply to medical school. I took all of my prerequisites at KU and really loved it so I applied early decision to KUMC, and here we are.

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

I would probably choose the word gregarious because I am very extroverted and energized by people. I’m really animated and everyone knows how I feel or think in the moment. I don’t try to hide my emotions. 

What do you do in your free time?

Well, I eat. I know this is really ridiculous to say, but I love eating. Most people eat to live but I live to eat. My husband and I love trying new restaurants and we’re doing a pizza tour of the country this summer. We’re driving to a bunch of different states and trying the best-ranked pizza in each major city. I also go to the gym and play volleyball a lot so that I can continue to eat all the pizza. Outside of eating I spend a ton of time playing with and snuggling my three cats.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about people. I don’t know if that’s something you can be passionate about, but I love talking with people and learning about their journeys and what inspires them. 

I’m also passionate about destigmatizing disease. I’ve done public health research on Alzheimer’s disease and I learned that a lot of people are very uncomfortable interacting with people that have a disease, whether it’s a mental illness or physical disease. I think that through public health education, the population can become more comfortable with disease and talking about disease. This would hopefully result in those with diseases becoming less stigmatized because disease does not define who a person is, it’s just something unfortunate that has happened to someone. I think that if society can learn to have more acceptance for people that are suffering and know how to interact with those people, everyone can benefit.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I am super interested in weather phenomena. I took a class at KU called “unusual weather” and fell in love with it. I swear that in a past life I was a meteorologist.

What inspires you?

I think, again, I know this is the same answer as before, but people inspire me. You can learn so many different things about someone and who they are and what makes them tick just by talking to them for a little while. I also think it’s very inspiring when people are really passionate about something. When someone is passionate about something their whole demeanor completely changes and it is infectious. I’m also really inspired by people that have experienced adversity in their lives and have successfully overcome it.

What is your journey into medicine?

Both of my parents struggled with addiction when I was young, so I didn’t really have a strong support system or mentors of any kind. Then when I was in middle school, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. So throughout her journey, I was exposed to the medical field. One of her doctors, I think it was her neurosurgeon, noticed that I was always around listening and told me “you could be a doctor one day too”. I definitely did not believe him because that wasn’t realistic with the way I grew up, but it was always kind of in the back of my head.

I wasn’t able to fully embrace trying to get into medical school until I met my husband and gained him and his family as a support system that really believed in and encouraged me. Once I finally decided that this is what I wanted to do, I jumped in feet first and did it. 

What are your future hopes in medicine?

So right now, I’m leaning towards going into Psychiatry, but who knows. I think everyone changes their mind all the time, especially during the pre-clinical years. I do think Psychiatry is something that I’ve been really drawn to, especially with my past experiences and how important it is for compassionate people to go into Psychiatry.

My overall hope for medicine is that the culture improves and that attending, resident, and med student suicide becomes a thing of the past. I hope that everyone can support each other and be transparent about their journeys. I don’t have a solution to this, of course, but that’s one of the things that I really hope to see in medicine as a whole.

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