Albert Fernandez became interested in medicine at an early age after hearing stories from his grandfather who was a physician in Puerto Rico.
“What drew me to medicine was seeing the impact my grandfather was able to have throughout his career,” said Fernandez. “I was really impressed by his knowledge and how he was able to use that to affect people’s lives.”
But while in college, Fernandez was told by advisors his grades were not quite strong enough for medical school, and that he should pay an additional $50,000 for a post-baccalaureate program that came with no guarantees of med school admission.
Fernandez remained determined to pursue his dreams. He applied for and was accepted to a fellowship program at a New York City nonprofit, where he worked with medically fragile children in foster care. He also took classes and studied for the MCAT and learned about AMSNY’s pipeline programs, which provide a path to medical school for students from underrepresented backgrounds. The programs are offered to students who receive a conditional acceptance from a New York State medical school and are referred to the program for additional preparation. Fernandez took the chance of applying to New York medical schools that participated in AMSNY programs.
Stony Brook Medicine recognized Fernandez’s potential. He was accepted to the physiology and biophysics master’s program with guaranteed admission to the medical school upon successful completion.
The AMSNY pipeline program helped Fernandez build his confidence and prepared him for medical school by providing him with a curriculum tailored to fill the specific gaps in his science education. But, Fernandez said the program’s strongest component was the mentorship and support he got from the faculty and other students.
“When I got to the master’s program, I saw people like myself with similar experiences, and for the first time in my academic career, I felt empowered,” said Fernandez. “I saw a transition in myself from a timid pre-med student consistently told that being a doctor was a pipe dream, to being on a direct path to medical school and achieving my goals.”
When Fernandez began medical school after completing AMSNY’s program, he felt prepared to succeed there. He recently graduated from Stony Brook Medicine with an M.D., and now Dr. Fernandez will begin his residency at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s-Roosevelt this summer in psychiatry.
He aims to help underserved communities in New York through work in either addiction psychiatry and or child psychiatry, inspired by his experience with children in foster care. He also recognizes the need for culturally competent care in LGBTQ communities, which he hopes to provide.
“Medicine is not just about how high was your MCAT score, or how high was your GPA,” said Dr. Fernandez. “Medicine is about how can you empower your communities and help people improve their health.”