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Russell Perkins

Advocate for Yourself

Russell Perkins

Russell Perkins admits that he thinks kids are a lot cooler, funnier, and more entertaining to talk to than adults. 

This is part of why the psychology, pre-med major plans to pursue a career in pediatrics after his May 2021 graduation from the University of Oklahoma. Perkins is currently applying to one-year, gap-year clinical research positions at some of the top children’s hospitals in the nation. Then, he plans to hopefully start medical school in the fall of 2022. 

Perkins realized his interest in working with children through an internship program at Broken Arrow High School. During his senior year, he participated in Career Exploration Programs, which partnered students with local businesses. Participants were placed in a variety of fields, and Perkins chose child psychology. Then in college, Perkins shadowed a couple of pediatricians, a child psychiatrist, and a pediatric cardiologist, which is the area he wants to enter in the future.

Those opportunities, along with time spent volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Norman, helped Perkins realize his future career path. 

“With the shadowing and the high school experience and also with community service and community outreach things that I do, I knew kids were the future that I wanted to work with,” Perkins explained. “I think when you grow and you mold kids into being good people and productive people and kind people, there's really no stopping any of them.”

Since his freshman year, Perkins has volunteered one day a week at the Boys & Girls Club. That first year, he was paired with a fifth grader in the mentorship program and spent his time with that student doing things like completing homework, playing basketball, or watching movies. Perkins said the setup is different now due to COVID-19, but he still hangs out with the children and aims to encourage them and be a good role model. 

“I am such a big advocate of the saying, 'If you don't ask, the answer will always be no.'” - Russell Perkins

“If you know an interest that you have, whether it be kids or animals or eldery populations or whatever, there are so many different ways regardless of where you live to help, to do it out of the kindness of your heart,” said Perkins of seeking out volunteer opportunities. 

A first-generation college student, Perkins said during the college search process, OU provided a personalized experience and actively let him know he was wanted on campus. As a freshman, Perkins was in the President’s Leadership Class and served on the executive team for College Bowl. Currently, Perkins is a mentor for the Pre-Med Mentorship Program, a Diversity Enrichment Programs intern, and the chair of the Minority Health Sciences Conference, which a good friend of his founded last year. 

The Minority Health Sciences Conference is designed to introduce minority high school juniors and seniors to the seven different colleges at the OU Health Sciences Center. It will be held virtually on April 17, 2021. Registration will open at the end of February or early March, and Perkins encouraged students interested in attending to sign up quickly as the event will be capped at 200 students, with a waiting list after that. 

When it comes to advice for prospective students, Perkins said to “always advocate for yourself.” An example he gave was reaching out to Dr. Si Wu after reading an article about her research lab and thinking it sounded like an interesting place to work. He’s been part of the lab since his sophomore year, working on top-down proteomics research. At OU’s Undergraduate Research Day in April, he’s going to present on the work. 

“It all happened because I read an article and decided to step up and advocate for myself,” Perkins explained. “I said, ‘Russell, you're smart enough and you’re bold enough to at least try it,’ and it worked out. Now it worked out one time, but it won’t work out every time. I can't tell you how many things I’ve been rejected for, but the point is I at least tried. I didn't assume it was a no … I am such a big advocate of the saying, 'If you don't ask, the answer will always be no.'”