YMG teaches skills that are ‘applicable in anything,’ says former student

Asha Davis, 19, who just finished her sophomore year at University of Maryland College Park — where she works in guest services — was part of YMG’s first class.

by Aileen Delgado

Asha Davis, 19, a sophomore at the University of Maryland College Park studying public health, was one of Youthcast Media Group’s first students in 2017.

As a freshman at Mercy High School in Baltimore transitioning into sophomore year, Davis worked with other Baltimore students at Morgan State University and in partnership with student Erin Burnett, she reported on social media and its impacts on teenagers.

Though journalism was never in her career plans and she is now aiming to become a physician’s assistant, Davis said her experience with YMG was still immensely valuable. At UMD, Davis is part of the school’s guest services team and is also a member of the Honors College, Primadolls dance team, Black Student Union, and the Charles R. Dupree Health Society.

Through the health society, Davis attended the Minority Women in Medicine conference in 2021 where she joined a panel discussion with predominantly Black women from different health care fields.

Davis talked to current YMG intern Aileen Delgado to discuss her experiences with the organization and her future in healthcare. Their conversation has been edited for content and clarity.

What was your favorite part of your experience at YMG (then known as Urban Health Media Project)?

There are a lot of different avenues to what being a health professional looks like. It allowed me to appreciate health reporting more, especially in the times of COVID, just learning about how the news and media play a lot into stereotypes. Having [YMG Founder] Jayne [O’Donnell] as a mentor was a really great resource in terms of just allowing us to have a lot of networking opportunities and connections. She work[ed] for USA TODAY, so her name can get you places. She allowed us to get interviews with a lot of notable people. For example, we talked to the family of Henrietta Lacks since she is from Baltimore.

Erin Burnett and fellow inaugural YMG class member Asha Davis completed a project on the effects of social media on the mental health of teens. Photo courtesy of Erin Burnett

Why are you passionate about health?

I've always had a passion for helping people. Health strongly aligns with that … Coming from a Black family, my father, and his healthcare experience was something that struck me and motivated me to go into health care. Historically, the injustices that minority communities have faced in health care, particularly Black people within the United States, have led many Black people to distrust the medical community. So because of that, like a ripple effect, they don't go to the doctor often, they don't get their diagnosis, and they don't see side effects or symptoms as something serious. I definitely saw that throughout my life on my dad's side … Seeing the repercussions have motivated me to go down more so of a public health road in school.

Through the Charles R. Drew Pre-Health Society, I did go to the Minority Women in Medicine conference, and I was able to meet my mentor, Kathryn Reed. She's a physician assistant, which is a career that I hope to be in. As a Black woman trying to go into the healthcare field, it's also nice to see people who not only look like you but also be able to get mentors that will help you. People that are in those spaces need to be able to have the language, respect, and education to be able to help all kinds of people. Mentorship is also a major goal of mine in healthcare. Helping bring up people as I climb the ladder myself is something that I strongly believe in.

How do you think the skills you learned at YMG will help you in your career?

In terms of my future career, I think I'll always have a passion for media, and the role that social media has in the aspect of journalism. [YMG] was really a time for me to try something new, see if I liked it, and learn. Journalism teaches you how to talk to people as well, so that was a really great way to use that skill and see that in the career that I'm going for. I never really had a strong interest in the media side of things, in terms of news and radio, but I knew these were still skills that I was going to need in a health profession anyway.

What are your plans for the future?

As I'm becoming an upperclassman, I am definitely going to try working towards getting an internship opportunity and collecting patient care experience. I know that CPR training will allow me to get more patients or experience with EMT or volunteering. Narrowing down my physician assistant schools and starting to work on that application is scary, but that’s also something I plan on doing.

What advice would you give other students thinking about joining Youthcast Media Group?

I would definitely say to go into it with an open mind. Again, journalism wasn't something that I had any keen interest in, but I think going into it with an open mind in any situation is something that you can apply outside of just [the program]. Take advantage of the opportunities that you have and the resources. I've grown to learn that they can be applicable in anything, even if it's not the interest or career field that you see yourself going into.