Carlos Paz spent his childhood laboring in California’s grape fields. Today, the Harvard Medical student is conducting research on circadian rhythms.
“I knew from a very early age that if I didn’t want to do physical labor all my life, I would have to go to college and excel in school,” he said,
Former Los Angeles gang member, Omar Sahagun, is also a Harvard Medical student. He is conducting research on the role of immune system proteins in breast milk.
“I can never change where I came from,” Sahagun said, “But I have learned that I can, and will, change where I am headed.”
Paz and Sahagun are joining more than 30 other minority medical students from across the country, many of whom have similar stories of dramatic personal achievement, for the Symposium of the Fellowship Program in Academic Medicine for Minority Students in Princeton, N.J. (March 7-8).
Hosted by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, the fellowship program gives students an opportunity to interact with other medical school students and faculty, and to present their research project findings. The program is designed to encourage medical students from minority groups to pursue academic medicine and careers in biomedical research.
African Americans, mainland Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and American Indians make up 18 percent of the U.S. population, but less than four percent of the M.D. faculty in the nation’s medical schools.
As part of the symposium, the medical students will lead a “role model roundtable,” in which they will share their academic and life experiences with New Jersey and Philadelphia high school students.
More than 450 fellows have completed the fellowship program since it was founded in 1984. The program has received more than $3 million from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, which has been a supporter since 1990 and has acted as sole funder since 1993.
The fellows are second-through-fourth-year minority medical students who are nominated by their deans and chosen by a committee of medical school faculty and biomedical researchers. Fellows are selected based on their academic achievements, leadership abilities, and potential for assuming responsible roles in academic medicine.