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13-year-old girl is the youngest Black medical school student in American history

Alena Analeigh Wicker, 13, will begin her studies in 2024 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

At just 13 years old, Alena Analeigh Wicker is set to become the youngest Black medical student in U.S. history. After graduating high school just last year, she has been accepted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and will begin her studies there in 2024.

Wicker has completed half of her undergraduate requirements at Arizona State University and Oakwood University in the past year. Through the Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program, she has been accepted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine. This program partners the university with historically Black colleges and universities across Alabama to “provide early acceptance to medical school for students who meet the requirements for acceptance and matriculation.”

Wicker posted on Instagram a video showing her acceptance letter to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She captioned the post, “I graduated High school LAST YEAR at 12 years old and here I am one year later I’ve been accepted into Med School at 13. I’m a junior in college. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams. Mama, I made it.”

Wicker wrote that she would not have succeeded without her mother’s support and sacrifices in her life, though she hopes to share her success with others, as well. She started the Brown STEM Girl Foundation to remove financial barriers for women of color studying in STEM fields, and to provide exceptional learning opportunities as they gain a higher education.

Wicker has been featured in Ebony and Forbes interviews as the “Brown STEM Girl” has made waves in and out of school. She is an advocate for “unschooling” — putting less emphasis on test scores and regimented classrooms, and learning while traveling around the country and world. Though she has attended traditional public schools, Wicker was primarily homeschooled by her mother, Daphne McQuarter.

McQuarter told The Washington Post that Wicker had shown signs of being a prodigy all the way back in her toddler years. “Alena was gifted,” McQuarter said. “It was just how she did things and how advanced she was. She was reading chapter books.”

Wicker fell in love with science at a young age, telling Forbes that besides regularly observing the night sky, she had a passion for Legos. Her Instagram bio references both her internship at NASA (another first, here — she’s the youngest NASA intern to date!) and that “@lego = my life.”

Though she was initially interested in studying engineering, Wicker became interested in medicine after a trip to Jordan with the Brown STEM Girl Foundation. She found a passion in viral immunology that complemented her love of volunteering and service.

Wicker told Ebony, “What I want from health care is to really show these underrepresented communities that we can help, that we can find cures for these viruses.”

“I absolutely love engineering, but I also love the biomedical field,” she told Forbes. “Right now I’m on track to graduate with my B.S. and M.S. in 2024 and plan to complete medical school by the time I’m 18.”

But despite all of her achievements, Wicker insists, “I’m still a normal 13-year-old.”

“I just have extremely good time management skills and I’m very disciplined,” she told The Washington Post.