As a child in Ecuador, Paola Morocho watched her grandmother struggle with osteoporosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, and felt helpless in the face of her pain. When they would travel together over an hour to seek medical care, she was impressed by the doctors who were able to help her grandmother, and aspired to be like them someday.
By the time Morocho joined her parents in Queens, NY, at age 12, she had firmly set her sights on becoming a doctor. But, she had obstacles to overcome, including starting high school without fluency in English, and being the first in her family to apply for college. She pursued her goal, studying biology at City College of New York, while volunteering at hospitals and shadowing doctors.
Her volunteer experience made her realize that she could make a difference in the lives of Spanish-speaking patients. Those patients told her things they would not tell the doctors, knowing that she understood both their words and their background.
But in order to help patients in the way she hoped, Morocho had to be admitted into medical school, and the process worried her. She took two years after getting her B.S. to prepare and study while working.
When she applied, SUNY Upstate Medical University recognized that with a bit of extra academic experience and support she had the potential to be a great addition to their class of medical students. She was accepted into AMSNY’s Medical Scholars Program at Upstate, a two-year pipeline program where students earn a Master of Science in Medical Technology degree. The curriculum focuses on microbiology and includes a research thesis and a mentoring component. Upon successful completion of the program, students are guaranteed admission to Upstate Medical University.
The program made Morocho feel more than ready to take on the challenge of medical school this fall, as a member of Upstate Medical University’s Class of 2021.
“Medical Scholars has been an amazing opportunity, allowing me to grow both professionally and personally,” said Morocho. “It’s not just a program – all of the support makes it feel like a family.”