Christian Acharte, School of Medicine
Eric Addo, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
I was born and raised in Middletown, CT, a diverse community located within a suburban setting. In 2009, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in economics and a biology minor. During summers, I worked as a researcher in a Wesleyan University molecular biology lab, and at emergency rooms in Yale New Haven Hospital and Middlesex Memorial Hospital. My hospital experiences shaped my perspective on the rigorous responsibilities of health care providers and solidified my resolve to become a physician. At UPenn, I served as a mentor and tutor for disadvantaged West Philadelphia youth. This allowed me to interact with a diverse community and to witness firsthand the social issues that usually exist beneath the surface of large urban settings. In addition, my economics coursework has exposed the deeper policy issues within the health care delivery system and spurred my desire to serve in an urban setting. The UST's mission coincides with my goals, and I hope to gain the clinical training and experience necessary to positively impact health care delivery to under-penetrated areas.
Mark Angeloni, School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2013
Shamsul Arif School of Pharmacy, Class of 2012
I was born and raised in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, a country in South Asia. After completing my GCE A Levels in 2005, I moved to Manchester, CT and enrolled in UConn's pre-pharmacy program. Bangladesh, a country of 14 million people, has only about 30,000 registered doctors, most of who practice in cities. However, some 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas where it can take hours to reach a hospital or doctor. Growing up in a country with such a tremendous health care crisis, I was always geared toward a profession that would help alleviate the disparities that exist in its services. My reasons for joining UST are three-fold: I believe orchestrated interdisciplinary teamwork among health care professionals is crucial for improved patient outcomes; I believe that with my knowledge and skills comes a responsibility to reach people most in need; and I want to live up to an oath of serving humanity for life. I expect that my experiences with UST will strengthen my beliefs and provide the exposure necessary for my professional development. Working with fellow Urban Health Scholars, I seek to become a better collaborator in a health care team.
Shelli Boucher, School of Dental Medicine
Tiffany Brady, School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2013
Shelley Burchsted - School of Medicine
I decided to attend UCONN because of its outstanding program. Deciding on a major, however, was not an easy task. I finally chose pharmacy mostly because my cousin, a pharmacist, convinced me that I would love it due to my deep appreciation of science. I am from a small town in central Massachusetts where I also work as an intern for a local pharmacy. As an intern, I have participated in several blood pressure and diabetic awareness clinics. This experience ultimately sparked my interest to join UST so that I can continue to help underserved communities. My overall goal is to work in drug design research. I think that creating a drug to treat an illness would be a great accomplishment.
Elizabeth Chasse, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and moved to Connecticut at the age of eight. Following high school, I attended Stonehill College in Easton, MA, where I majored in biology and minored in psychology. I have chosen a career in medicine because of a long-standing desire to help people, especially children, in underserved communities. After college, I had the privilege of working at a teen pregnancy prevention agency in inner city New Britain, CT. The program was comprised mostly of minority and underserved youth. My job duties varied from day to day but one of the most valuable services I provided was to be a role model and mentor. I discovered that working directly with the children my work benefited gave greater purpose to everything I did. It was truly a priceless experience and one that has further strengthened my drive and commitment to help the underserved. I hope the UST will broaden my knowledge about how to better serve urban communities and allow me to continue helping underserved populations.
Tiffany Chen, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
A native of Woodbridge, CT, I graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in history of science/history of medicine, an academic field that reveals the penetrating impact of medicine on the health of citizens, as well as on the overall vitality and stability of communities. My studies also exposed me to the dynamic intersection of culture and medicine -- a topic extremely relevant to treating the medically underserved. I volunteered in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, interviewed coal miners in China, and assisted autistic toddlers during speech therapy sessions. Consequently, I have observed how health and well-being intricately affect all aspects of our lives and strongly believe that quality health care should be accessible to impoverished communities. I want to practice medicine among those who need the most help; socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or language should never be impediments. As the nation moves closer to overhauling the current health care system, the UST and its objectives become even more critical. Interdisciplinary cooperation is essential for comprehensive, competent and sustainable care. The UST, I believe, will give me a new awareness of and sensitivity to underserved patient populations.
Theresa Connolly, School of Nursing, Class of 2013
I grew up in Dedham, MA, a small suburb outside of Boston. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the medical field. Over time, I realized that I desired to spend my professional career as a nurse. Nursing can have a huge impact on the lives of patients. It also is one of the most trusted professions. Ideally, after graduation, I would like to work in Boston. The UST provides participants with the knowledge and expertise needed to aid those who live in just such an urban area. In a country where so many people are unable to receive the care they need due to poverty and other factors, I believe it is important to serve the less fortunate. The UST will provide me with irreplaceable experiences and knowledge that will help me become the best nurse I can possibly be.
Amanda Costello, School of Nursing, Class of 2013
I have wanted to be a nurse ever since I witnessed the positive influences of nurses when my grandparents were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. I was born and raised in Manchester, CT, a town that becomes more diverse by the year. In high school, I was president of a volunteer swimming program (Instructors of the Handicapped) for mentally and physically challenged children and adults from all walks of life. I also volunteered at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, and worked with patients from all different backgrounds. Consequently, I became very interested in working with undeserved urban populations, specifically children. I hope that my experiences with UST will make me a stronger, more well rounded nurse, one who will positively affect the lives of others and help to raise awareness about inequalities in urban health care.
Jason Crespo, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
I was born in Bridgeport, CT and raised in Florida, the sunshine state. After earning my AA at Valencia Community College, I entered the Doctorate of Pharmacy program at the University of Florida. During my pharmacy rotations, I realized that my true aspiration was to become a physician, quite possibly in academia. Even though this meant putting my life on hold, I reasoned that obtaining a medical degree would be the best way to influence the health care system. There is great value to interdisciplinary teams: physicians know how to diagnose and pharmacists know medication. A two-step approach to patient care is most efficient and economical. Many have asked, "Why leave Florida for Connecticut?" A major reason was the UST, which appeals to me -- a third-generation Puerto Rican -- because the program is unique in targeting urban populations. I anticipate meeting people who are on the front lines helping those who are less fortunate. These contacts will be invaluable as resources to serve the urban population who lack adequate health care.
Kroum Dimitrov, School of Dental Medicine, ‘13
Background: Native of Bulgaria, moved to Florida to pursue higher education. Attended Broward College; graduated from UMass with honors and degree in biology.
Related Experience: Class president, UMass pre-dental society. Through honors neuropharmacology project, researched drugs for treatment of Parkinson's disease. Participated in various community projects involving the underserved in Florida through Phi Theta Kappa chapter of Broward College.
"My grandmother was a dentist (in Bulgaria) and she never turned patients away regardless of their social or financial status. The lesson I learned from her is that a healthcare professional must be altruistic above everything else. By the end of middle school, I knew I wanted to be a dentist. Since the U.S. is home to the latest innovation and research, I resolved to travel here to get the best dental education. I look forward to following my grandmother's example to be a devoted and social healthcare professional who brings health, beauty, and happiness to patients from all walks of life."
Colleen Donnelly, School of Dental Medicine
Alexandra Fidellga, School of Nursing
Annie Gao, School of Medicine
Paulina Gorecki, School of Nursing
Dylan Graetz, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
After growing up in Milford, CT, I moved to rural Vermont to attend Middlebury College. I majored in English, but always knew that I was interested in health care. Throughout college, I shadowed doctors and volunteered with children. These experiences taught me about poverty outside of an urban setting, and I quickly learned that there are underserved communities everywhere. Upon graduating in 2008, I moved to San Francisco and worked for Lyon-Martin, an LGBT clinic dedicated to serving women and transgender people of all economic backgrounds. I learned about a different kind of diversity and experienced the satisfaction that comes from helping people who have been otherwise overlooked or turned away. I have always been interested in interdisciplinary work and strongly believe that no profession exists as an island. Through the UST, I will share my own perspectives and learn from those of other professionals. By working together, we will be able to provide more comprehensive health care to those in need.
Rickinder (Ricky) Grewal, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
An Ontario, Canada native who was raised in Texas and Connecticut, I am a 2009 UConn graduate with a bachelor of science degree in molecular and cell biology, and minors in Spanish and chemistry. My interest in medicine was kindled as a high school volunteer at St. Mary's Hospital, and solidified through volunteer work alongside a psychiatrist and two psychologists in a multiple family therapy group. Besides reinforcing how much I enjoy helping others, these experiences opened my eyes to what being a physician really entails. Diversity has always been important to me, as I am fluent in four languages and have volunteered as a Big Friends mentor and at Willimantic's No Freeze Homeless shelter. As a future physician, I believe my familiarity with personal struggle will be an asset. That, along with being a UST scholar, should enable me to improve the quality of care I provide to all patient populations.
Sarah Higley, School of Nursing
Hannah Hughes, School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2013
A lifelong New Englander, I was born and raised in a small suburban Rhode Island town along with three siblings. After graduation from high school, I earned my Gold Award in Girl Scouting, which involved creating and executing a special reading program in the local library. I then completed my undergraduate degree in physiology and neurobiology at UConn. There, I conducted research on the cause of Huntington's disease in a genetics lab. I also became an officer in UConn's chapter of the Pre-Dental Society, which helped solidify my love of the dental profession and provided several volunteer opportunities. In 2007, I traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi to help rebuild residential areas that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I decided to become involved in UST because it is an opportunity to continue my community involvement while working with others interested in different fields of medicine. I am hoping to gain a better perspective on how health care professionals working as an integrated team can improve the health care system as a whole.
Brittany Jeanloz, School of Nursing, Class of 2013
I am originally from Trenton, Michigan but spent most of my life in West Hartford, CT. As a child, I was often in and out of hospitals for various reasons. My most distinct memory is of the numerous nurses who influenced my recovery and helped me to get better. Reminiscences of the care they provided are what have drawn me to a nursing career. My interest in health care further bloomed from my work as a hospice volunteer in a nursing home and with the CT AHEC Migrant Farm Worker clinics. My involvement in those organizations as well as with the Habitat for Humanity helped me to identify the growing need for service to the urban underserved populations. I am very excited for the opportunity to participate in the Urban Service Track. I expect it will provide me with valuable experience and knowledge in an area about which I feel very passionate, and prepare me for my goal of participating in Doctor's Without Borders.
Shawnet K. Jones, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
Born in Jamaica, I immigrated to Texas as a toddler and later moved to Hartford, CT, where I currently reside. Becoming a doctor has always been my goal, and over the years, I have become increasingly interested in committing my time to the underserved. During undergraduate work in physiology and neurobiology at UCONN, I volunteered at a clinic in Willimantic. There, I experienced how community-based organizations work to meet the medical and social needs of the uninsured and underinsured. I also traveled to the Dominican Republic as part of a service learning program in which I helped teach such health-related workshops as nutrition, dental hygiene, and safe sex practices. I now understand that health care is multifaceted and requires cooperation, creativity, and dedication. It is my hope that UST will challenge and broaden my viewpoint, while illustrating how different health care professionals can interact to improve care for underserved populations.
Pamela Karkut, School of Dental Medicine
Laura Keating, School of Nursing
Sara Kerin, School of Dental Medicine
Alaina Kessler, School of Medicine, MPH
Erica Knee, School of Dental Medicine
Ruth Lawn, School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2013
An Arizona native born to parents in the military, I have lived in various locations among families of many cultural and economic backgrounds, including residents of Okinawa, Japan. After graduating from Smith College with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, I attended school for dental assisting in Connecticut. I worked for a while as a dental assistant and later taught courses in that field. My passion for serving the poor first surfaced when I volunteered at St. Anthony's Clinic in the Bronx and with a dental/medical team in Honduras as part of the Light of the World Charities. I have learned that compassionate and generous medical practitioners can help patients overcome feelings of powerlessness in a health care delivery system that is neither uniform nor fair. I know that the UST will foster interdisciplinary teamwork and help me refine the skills I need to become a leading role model in dental outreach.
Avery LaChance, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
A Guilford, CT native, I graduated in 2008 from Middlebury College with a degree in Japanese studies. During my time at Middlebury, I spent one month as an intern at a small, private hospital in Tamil Nadu, India. Although I had been intrigued by the medical field from an early age, this experience constituted my first exposure to the health care disparities that exist across different populations. A desire to minimize this medical resource gap among underserved populations here and abroad is what fuels my career trajectory. Through the UST, I look forward to learn from and work with local underserved communities alongside other service-oriented professionals and students, working toward a common goalof universal access to quality health care.
Julie McNeish - School of Dental Medicine
Michaela Morse, School of Nursing
Tara Mould, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
Although I was born in Maryland, my family and I moved to Kingston, Jamaica, the land of my heritage, when I was 11 years old. I embrace my history and enjoy living among a proud melting pot of races and nationalities known as Jamaicans. Growing up in the West Indies allowed me to experience directly the hardships of living in a third world country. I was saddened by the conditions in which my fellow citizens lived and felt compelled to make positive contributions to my community through science and medicine. I pursued my career in the sciences by receiving a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Wesleyan University in 2008. I then did a post-baccalaureate program in the biological sciences and am now pursuing a career in medicine. My objective is to help lessen the disparities that exist in health care across racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines. I believe UST will provide me with the experience to serve the underserved foster an attitude of teamwork among my colleagues in all health care disciplines.
Stephen Nelson, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
After living in various small towns, my family settled in Farmington, CT just as I was beginning high school. During high school, I participated in the renovation of the Hartford City Mission building, and became involved in tutoring and other after school activities. This would mark my first exposure to an urban area such as Hartford. I later obtained a bachelor's degree in biochemistry at Wheaton College in Illinois. There, I worked at inner city youth programs -- humbling experiences that entailed losing at basketball to local seventh graders. During the summer of my sophomore year, I traveled to Buenos Aires to work and study in a homeless shelter. All of these experiences increased my awareness of the urban condition, both at home and abroad. I am thrilled about the opportunity to participate in the UST so that I may continue to broaden my perspective on the urban environment
Salavatore Pezzella, School of Dental Medicine
Muamer Ramic, School of Pharmacy
After leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina as a war refugee in 1993, I lived briefly in Germany before settling down with my family in the United States. In 2008, I enrolled in UConn's School of Pharmacy with a goal of becoming a clinical pharmacist. During this time, I worked in a community pharmacy where I learned the skills essential to serving a diverse patient population. Two serious issues have motivated me to dedicate my energy and efforts to help solve health problems. The first was the death of close relatives due to misdiagnosis and the unavailability of medications and professional staff. The second is the rise in incurable illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Participation in the UST program will provide me with an opportunity to strengthen my skills as a future pharmacist as well as to develop relationships with patients and other professionals in the field. As future health care professionals, we need to advocate for better care for underserved populations. I believe that all citizens of this great nation deserve equal access to high-quality health care, regardless of socioeconomic background.
Mary Joy Secola, School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2013
Background: CT native. Boston College graduate with biology and psychology degrees.
Related Experience: Participant in UConn's Hartford Health Education Program, co-teaching health education to eighth graders. Volunteered with Haley House, a Boston soup kitchen for the homeless, and with Boston College Appalachia Volunteers in concert with Habitat for Humanity.
"My interest in dentistry was piqued as a patient at age 16. With each visit to the orthodontist office, I came to realize how dentistry is always evolving toward making the experience better for the patient. UST seemed like a logical step for me. Being familiar with underserved communities and the health concerns they face can only help physicians and dentists provide better care to all future patients. UST stresses interdisciplinary teamwork and I truly believe that comprehensive healthcare cannot be achieved without that cooperation."
Christine L. Shapter, School of Medicine, Class of 2013
Over the course of many years of working as a nurse, I realized my true calling was to become a physician. Caring for patients with acute and chronic illnesses gave me a greater understanding of how lack of access to health care strongly affects patient outcomes. My hope is that ultimately, all citizens will have access to quality health care, and in that regard, my philosophy mirrors the UST goals. With a sincere desire to serve the community, my purpose is to provide care and health education to as many people in need as possible. I was raised in West Hartford, CT, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Saint Joseph College, and completed the necessary medical pre-requisite courses through the UCONN School of Medicine?s post-baccalaureate program.
Christina Sok, School of Nursing, Class of 2013
I am the eldest in a family of six, and the first of 15 grandchildren. I was born in California, raised in Massachusetts and moved to Hartford about five years ago. The health field and human anatomy have always interested me. Through a variety of experiences, including shadowing and working with the Area Health Education Center, I concluded that I would prefer to be a neonatal nurse. With such a large family, I have a lot of experience with infants, and I find that caring for them is rewarding and fascinating. UST appeals to me because it seeks to provide care to urban areas, such as Hartford, and will offer me a chance to give back to my community.
Alyssa Stewart, School of Dental Medicine
Anneka Tyndale, School of Nursing
Sweta Vachhani, School of Pharmacy
Jayasanke Valiyapara- School of Dental Medicine
Arija Weddle, School of Medicine
Taylor Wilson, School of Nursing
Kate Wonneberger, School of Medicine
Si Hyung Woo (David), School of Medicine, Class of 2013
My desire to work with underserved populations stems from my personal experiences living in America as a first-generation immigrant. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, moved to the United States at the age of five, and lived in several large cities before settling in Thomaston, CT. I graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in biology. At Wesleyan, my interests in socio-economic injustice and health inequality inspired me to undertake a senior tutorial project on the biological and environmental causes behind the different infant mortality rates experienced by Caucasian and African American mothers. Furthermore, the positive experiences I had as a four-year volunteer at the Migrant Farm Workers health clinic solidified my decision to pursue a medical career. After college, I spent one year working for the Northwestern CT Area Health Education Center where I coordinated a service-learning program called the Collegiate Health Service Corps. As a prospective ER physician in an inner city hospital, I believe the knowledge and experience I will obtain as a UST scholar will become invaluable assets in my future practice. I hope to use my training to provide excellent care to every patient I serve.
Michael Zavaski, School of Medicine
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