Fourth-year medical student Amelie Muse Romelus emigrated from Haiti when she was 10, but she now feels a deep connection to Florida – which is where she wants to spend the next three years.
She hopes to be matched to a residency in internal medicine in the Sunshine State on Match Day, this year on March 17, and said she would be “ecstatic” to stay at UF, where she has been since 2000.
“I’d love to stay in Florida – that has a lot to do with family reasons,” she said.
Romelus credits her mother for much of her success and drive. Her mom boldly moved to the U.S. from Haiti alone, working and preparing for a year to bring her children to South Florida. Romelus describes her mom as the type of woman who would do anything for her kids and has worked two jobs, since she’s been in this country.
“She inspires me … she works so hard for me,” she said. “I feel it’s only fair for me to work just as hard for her.”
After staying with an uncle in Haiti for a year, Romelus moved to Boynton Beach to join her mom when she was 10. It wasn’t easy. The little girl landed in a country where she couldn’t understand the language and was placed in an English language program at school. In Haiti, she spoke Creole at home and French at school.
But she and her two younger sisters excelled – one sister is a pharmacist in Tampa and the youngest, who’s 17, wants to become a dentist. Their mother encouraged her daughters to go into health care, viewing it as a stable field.
Romelus initially resisted the notion of becoming a doctor, getting bachelor degrees in psychology and health science, then her master’s degree in health administration, all from UF. She was involved in numerous leadership organizations, including being an ambassador for UF through Florida Cicerones, and was named UF Homecoming Queen in 2003.
After working as a receptionist for an administrator at a local nursing home while she was in high school, Romelus’ original goal was to become a hospital executive. She loved working with geriatric patients and thought such a job would allow her to lead as well as have “hands-on” experience in her work.
But she reconsidered her choice during graduate school when she overheard one of her classmates commenting that he was going into health-care administration so he wouldn’t have to deal with patients. She was still volunteering at a nursing home in Gainesville because she loved the elderly patients and knew she wanted that regular patient contact.
“I realized I needed to go to medical school,” Romelus said, adding that meant she had to take the needed prerequisite classes for medical school while finishing her master’s degree program.
Medical school has been intense, mainly due to the amount of information she’s had to digest and master in a short time. It’s the friendships she’s made in her class that have gotten her through, she said, adding one of her favorite things to do to relax is cook new recipes to share with friends.
“There are late nights and early mornings, and you get through it together,” she said. “Sometimes all you need is for someone to sit there with you and not say anything.”
There have been tough times, like the catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. She recalled her mom calling the morning of the quake, telling her to turn on the news. After seeing the death and destruction in the island nation, she spent five agonizing days, unable to reach anyone in Haiti and fearing the worst. Fortunately, everyone in her immediate family survived, although the home and business of the uncle she had stayed with as a child was destroyed.
Romelus chose internal medicine because she likes the close, continuing relationship with patients that the specialty offers. One of her role models within the specialty is George J. Caranasos, M.D., a professor in UF’s division of internal medicine, she said, because of his intelligence and compassion for his patients.
“His patients trust him and he genuinely loves what he does,” she said.