Chosen for a purpose
135 students join the UF College of Medicine class of 2022
Aug. 1, 2018 — Donna Parker, M.D. ’90, looks around at all the faces in the South Learning Studio of the Harrell Medical Education Building Wednesday morning. A smile lights up her face as her gaze travels around the room. The associate dean for diversity and health equity at the UF College of Medicine welcomes the students of the class of 2022, and she tells them why they are here.
“You were chosen, and it was not by accident,” Parker told the students. “We are here to teach you, to mentor you and to provide an environment in which all of you can thrive.”
Of the 135 members in the class of 2022, 67 are women and 68 are men. These figures result from an intentional effort toward achieving gender equity among the medical student population. Twenty-nine percent of the class come from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds underrepresented in medicine.
Parker explained the mission of the UF College of Medicine Office for Diversity and Health Equity: advancing diversity in health care for the achievement of health equity for all. She noted all the unique human qualities that make up diversity: ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity and socioeconomic status among many others.
“Having a diverse student population increases the richness of your thinking and problem solving,” Parker said.
Class of 2022 by the numbers
- Enrolled: 135
- Men: 68
- Women: 67
- Students in Medical Honors Program: 15
- M.D./Ph.D. candidates: 6
- Students from out of state: 20
MEET A FEW FACES OF THE CLASS OF 2022
Neydric Jean remembers the day he decided on a future as a physician. He was a high school sophomore, visiting his grandmother in the mountains of Haiti, where he was born. He came down with an illness and was in a state of panic until his family tracked down a relative who practiced medicine. He recalls the great feeling of relief he gained from spending time with his cousin, who explained the symptoms he was experiencing. Recently, he’s returned to Haiti for medical missions trips.
“When I got healthy again, I decided I wanted to have that same effect on others, to make the worst day of somebody’s life better,” he says. “Medicine is very different in Haiti. A lot of the time when people get hurt or sick, they’re not able to come to a facility to seek treatment for reasons like lack of transportation or resources. And still, the hospitals and practitioners there are overwhelmed. If I could help chip away at that problem, that would mean a lot to me.” — TF
Over the next four years, Dominique Forestier looks forward to building on her existing body of research of cancer cell lines and their response to environment. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate spent time at Boston’s Broad Institute, a major biomedical research center. She knows that research is a task best done by a team, and she’s looking forward to getting to know her teammates in the class of 2022.
“I know it’s not going to be an easy four years, so I’m excited to build a community with my classmates,” Forestier says. “When things get dark and difficult, I know I’ll have someone to turn to.” — TF
Mary Ann Smith
Growing up in Tennessee as the daughter of two teachers, Mary Ann Smith always felt empowered to pursue education. Science was ingrained in her childhood thanks to her mother, a science teacher for 30 years, and she recalls doing experiments at home and walking past Mickey and Minnie on family vacations to Disney World in search of lichens on rocks.
As a recent graduate of Mississippi State University and a first-year student in UF’s MD-PhD Training Program, Smith aims to use the years of study ahead to pursue her interests in public health and infectious disease and hopes to someday join the ranks of physician-scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I want to learn to be a physician for communities, not just individuals, and I think the MD-PhD Training Program at UF will help me do that,” she says. “I also want to champion access to care, particularly in rural areas of the Southeast U.S.” — SR
Silvio Martinez first fell in love with medicine during a six-week service trip to Peru the summer before his sophomore year at UF. As he followed community health workers on their home visits to underserved patients, he began to see the barriers people face and the hope the field of medicine can offer.
A member of the Medical Honors Program at UF, Martinez has since seized opportunities to conduct research in epidemiology and infectious disease and has immersed himself in organizations such as Streetlight and Primary Care Progress to connect with people in the community and make his mark on health care.
“My parents always emphasized the power of education and how it can be a tool to build my new life in the U.S.,” says Martinez, who moved to Orlando at age 2. “They were the first in their families to receive a college education in Venezuela. They pushed me to reach high and to try to make a difference. That mindset changed my path because now whenever I see an opportunity, I jump at it.” — SR
Karen Cravero is a mother of two who holds a doctorate degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in cellular and molecular medicine. Born in Peru and raised in Miami, Cravero looks forward to a career in oncology, where she can continue her research in breast cancer as well as care for patients in a clinical setting.
“When it comes to oncology, we need to have a translational approach,” she says. “Applying knowledge from the bench to the bedside, that’s where I want to be.” — TF
Working in the executive office of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist taught Mallory LeBlanc the power of communication. As a medical student, LeBlanc, mother to Peter, age 5 months, aims to use her communication skills to become an advocate for patients.
“I lobbied the state legislature, serving as a liaison among agency staff, legislative staff and constituents to develop public policy,” she says. “I imagine the work of a physician involves serving as a liaison among hospital administration, different physicians and patients. I think we need more people in multi-disciplinary roles in health care, people who can bridge different roles to ensure everyone gets what they need. I’m marrying my political past and my medical future to improve the quality of health care provided.” — TF