Mentorship Program Helps CNR Students on Path to Medical Careers
10/01/2012 

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For two CNR juniors planning to become doctors, the Summer Undergraduate Mentorship Program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Hispanic Center of Excellence delivered everything it promised and then some.

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The experience strengthened their commitment to the field of medicine while providing more of the resources they need to pursue their desired careers.

Denise Dailey SAS'14, a chemistry major with a minor in biology, plans on attending medical school to become a forensic pathologist. But that wasn't exactly the case before she took part in the mentorship program.

She said clinical pathology -- the analysis of bodily fluids to diagnose diseases -- "was what I thought I wanted to do." Because of that interest, she was assigned to shadow a clinical pathologist (as well as an opthalmologist). But while Dailey likes spending time in the lab -- she is a chemistry major, after all -- she said the work involved "way too much blood." That, in part, inspired the shift to the study of bodies to determine the cause of death.

As part of the program, Dailey had the opportunity to dissect a cow heart, "and I was the best student. I really had fun." There's also a serious reason to the change: When Dailey's uncle died in their native Dominica, it took three weeks to determine what killed him. That's why Dailey wants to work in her home county, in Africa, or in one of the world's poorer nations.

Missiel Munoz SAS'14, a biology major with a minor in chemistry, has always wanted to be a doctor, and she said her time in the program "reinforced and solidified my interest in medicine."

Her interest in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer led her to be paired with an oncologist, as well as a hematologist.

Shadowing her mentors, Munoz said, "gives you a profound understanding of what medicine is all about on all levels." She said the experience gave her insight into how a doctor works. "It trained my mind to think like a doctor," Munoz said. But she also saw how important the interaction is with patients.

Being able to meet many medical professionals "was a big reward of the program," she said. Dailey also cited the networking opportunities as a big plus.

In addition, Munoz was also able to fulfill a desire to observe surgery.

Dailey and Munoz enjoyed the program so much that both have put Albert Einstein College of Medicine on their short list of medical schools to apply to. "You have so many people that want to help you," Munoz said. "It's a great community of people."

"It was a great experience," said Dailey. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

In addition to shadowing doctors and meeting medical students and other professionals, participants also completed a research project.

Dailey studied the prevalence of autism in the Hispanic community in New York City. "We thought it would be higher," she said, but her research found it was lower because many don't have as much access to health care. While autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 2, it often isn't detected in Hispanic children until 11 or 12, Dailey said.

Munoz's project explored the prevalance of gastric cancer in Hispanics and African-Americans, and its possible link to a certain type of infection.

(Pictured: Denise Dailey, above, and Missiel Munoz, inset.)