She's on the Fast Track to Med School: Meet Jilyan

Jilyan Decker, who is going to medical school after just three years at NJIT, wants to use medicine in humanitarian ways.

Ever since she was a girl, Jilyan Decker had an impulse to help living creatures.

At first, the impulse manifested itself in a love for animals: As a child she wanted to be a vet. But as she got older her aspiration changed: She decided to use medicine to help people. She enrolled in a high school – the Academy of Allied Health and Science – that focused on medicine. And while there, she earned an EMT certificate; volunteered for her town’s first aid squad; and volunteered at her local hospital.   

“Whether it was as a vet or a doctor, I always wanted to have something to do with medicine,” says Jilyan, a biomedical engineering major. “I want to be part of the reason a person can wake up every morning; to watch his or her children grow up; to simply enjoy life; even if that person is diagnosed with a tumor.”

Now, after just three years at NJIT, Jilyan is headed to the New Jersey Medical School, where in the fall she’ll begin her first year. When she was a senior in high school, she had applied to the accelerated BS/MD program run by the Albert Dorman Honors College. The program accepts only top students, with high SATs (usually over1,400 in reading and math), high grade point averages and leadership and community service experience. Jilyan was accepted into the program and excelled at every level at NJIT.  

In this interview, she talks about her myriad achievements at NJIT and how she intends to use medicine in humanitarian ways. 

Why are you going to medical school?

I always had an interest in medicine because you can help people.  When I was a girl I loved animals and wanted to be a Vet. Later I became interested in helping people. I don’t see medicine as a way to make money. I see it as a way to help people. I’d love to one day work for a humanitarian medical group such as Doctors Without Borders. Medicine is challenging but if you use it to improve the quality of people’s lives, it can be extremely rewarding.

Do you know what branch of medicine you’ll specialize in?

I'm not sure what I want to do yet in the future.  I love children and would like to work with them on some medical level one day.  But I know that as long as I keep working as hard as I can the path I'm supposed to take in life will reveal itself to me

Did NJIT prepare you well for med school?

Yes. Acquiring a degree from the biomedical engineering department definitely helped me to improve my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I also gained knowledge about relevant fields that will help me in the future.

You are in the accelerated BS/MD program. Can you explain how that works?

The program is such that you do three years at NJIT and four at the New Jersey Medical School (UMDNJ). You apply for the program during your senior year in high school when applying to colleges.  You have to apply and interview with both NJIT and NJMS. I know that I want to be in medical school, so it gets me to the same place in less time and the accelerated program also paid for all of my undergraduate education.

Why did you major in biomedical engineering?

I picked biomed over biology because I like technology and medicine and biomed combines both.  I also love computer programming and I got to do some of the for my major. Biomedical engineering, as I mentioned above, helped me to improve my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I also gained knowledge about relevant fields that will help me in the future.

Did you do research at NJIT?

Yes in was part of an Interdisciplinary Design Team that worked on the SmartGuardian project. SmartGuardian is a product that provides in-home health and behavioral monitoring for elderly persons. It will be implemented in assisted living facilities to send daily vital signs to an information system, eventually to be incorporated with an electric health record system.

What were some highlights of NJIT for you?

NJIT is a small campus with small class sizes, so I got to work closely with some of my professors. I also did hands-on projects for both my major and as part of the my Interdisciplinary Design Team. And I really enjoyed my sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon. We are a service sorority so we do a lot of community service, raising money for medical foundations.  There are 36 sisters in the sorority and for fun we play board games and video games (I like action adventure games role playing games like Mass Effect) or play Rock Band or hang out in dorm rooms and apartments. I joined when I was a freshman and now I’m president of the sorority.  It’s been my biggest tie and involvement on campus for the last three years. 

What other groups were you involved with?

Last year I was vice president of Engineers Without Borders, an NJIT club that helps Haitians get clean drinking water. I’m the Director of Programming for NJIT’s radio station and I’m secretary of Spectrum, the gay-straight alliance on campus.  I’m also a math tutor in the tutoring center. I really love math and I enjoy tutoring. I and my fellow tutors have weekly gatherings where we’ll get dinner in the Ironbound or in the Elbow Room, a hipster restaurant near to campus.  It’s easy to fall into a trap of staying in your room when you are in college. But being involved kept me active and engaged.

Are you happy you came to NJIT?

Yes. If I had to go back and make the decision over again, I would definitely choose the same. NJIT has provided me many opportunities for my future, and has helped me to come closer to the goals I want to accomplish in the future.

(By Robert Florida)