First-Generation Student Blazes Trail for Family on Route to Med School

James Osei Sarpong was born and raised in the Bronx by immigrant parents, neither of whom had pursued education beyond high school. But James had a desire to earn a college degree and a passion for science—biology in particular—so he worked hard to navigate the college admissions process.

“It was on me to figure it out,” he said. After James entered college, he encouraged his father to pursue a degree as well.

During his undergraduate education at Syracuse University, James volunteered at a hospital where he realized how much he enjoyed interacting with patients, and how as a doctor, he would be able to combine his strong interpersonal skills with his love of biology. He decided to pursue a career as a physician. During the summer he participated in the Northeast Regional Alliance (NERA) Med Prep Program for underrepresented or economically disadvantaged students, where he received MCAT Test Prep, clinical experience and exposure to research.

When James applied to SUNY Upstate Medical University, the admissions department recognized his potential, and offered him guaranteed admittance to the medical school upon completion of AMSNY’s Post-Baccalaureate program at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

During the year-long Post-Bac program, James received mentoring, advising and a tailored curriculum as preparation for the rigors of medical school. The program was challenging, James said, but it helped him develop the tools to succeed in his medical education. He just finished his first year at SUNY Upstate, and gives credit to the UB program for his successful transition.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend the Post-Bac program,” James said. “I learned a lot there, and as a result was able to adjust well to medical school this year.”

While he says it’s too early to know what he’d like to specialize in, James is interested in academic medicine and teaching in the future.