|Scholarships in Action|
Here are just a few of our current students and recent graduates who are translating the scholarship support they received at the Icahn School of Medicine into skills and careers that will benefit their patients—and the international medical community—in the years to come.
Scholarship Support—A Tremendous Investment
Seshat Mack, MD, PhD, ISMMS
Seshat is a second-year MD/PhD student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a current recipient of the Alumni Endowed Scholarship.
Eduardo Contijoch, MD, PhD, ISMMS '20
Eduardo Contijoch: I was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida, where I enjoyed playing soccer and spending time on the beach while growing up. I went to college at Princeton University, where I graduated in 2012 with an A. B. in Physics and a certificate in Biophysics. My senior thesis looked at the potential effects of x-ray irradiation on the ability of cancer cells to develop resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. Outside of academics, I was involved in the campus community as an RA, as well as a Captain for the Club Soccer team and a leader in the student HIV/AIDS advocacy and awareness group, SGAC (Student Global AIDS Campaign).
As an MD/PhD candidate, I was drawn to Sinai because of its excellence in academics and in research. Also, upon interviewing and visiting Sinai, it became very clear that people in the Sinai community are happy to be here, and the administrative support and infrastructure is very much set up to have the best interests of trainees in mind. I came across a variety of physicians and researchers who had done their training at Sinai and chosen to stay for the next step(s) in their careers. It seemed like a very good sign that people would choose to stay in a place where they had trained and were happy. As I'm finding out, I was right.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Dr. Giftos realized he wanted to work with vulnerable populations after a family tragedy demonstrated the destabilizing effect that social forces can have on physical and mental health. Dr. Giftos was inspired by the resilience of the individuals he worked with as an advocate and social worker for immigrants in Camden, New Jersey and at Abraham House in the South Bronx. Those roles enabled him to witness firsthand how social determinants of health—such as unequal access to fresh produce, stable housing, safe outdoor space, and adequate health care—negatively affected health outcomes in low income communities. Through these experiences, he says, he began to see the role that community-based health providers could play in addressing social issues, improving public health, and strengthening communities. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Giftos found exceptional mentors who nurtured his development as a primary care physician committed to community-oriented care.
Dr. Giftos says he is “awestruck at the generosity” of the many individuals whose contributions made his scholarship possible. “Their support liberated me to pursue the area of medicine that is most meaningful for me, and where I believe I will have the biggest impact,” he says.
Yara Elizabeth Perez, MD, ISMMS ’11 MSH’14
Dr. Perez, a hospitalist on the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology BMT Unit at Cohen's Children Medical Center, became interested in pursuing the field of medicine as a child growing up in East Harlem. She acted as a translator for her parents, who spoke only Spanish, when they had appointments at a local family health clinic. At these appointments, she recognized the communication barriers that prevented her parents from trusting the medical staff, following the advice they were given, and understanding the importance of the medications they were prescribed.
Dr. Perez’s participation in a mentoring program at Mount Sinai while a student at Manhattan Center High School for Mathematics and Science further reinforced her desire to become a physician. She chose pediatrics because, she says, it gives her “the opportunity to help young people by encouraging healthy habits and choices, modeling a healthy relationship to the world of medicine, and serving as a role model for kids and teens who may want to pursue science and medicine.” Dr. Perez recently completed her Pediatric Residency at The Mount Sinai Hospital. In July 2015, she will begin a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center.
Dr. Perez believes the scholarship she received to attend Mount Sinai enabled her to get the best possible education in the best possible environment. “The scholarship enabled me to pursue a privileged education I could not possibly have undertaken without considerable financial support. It enabled me to balance a manageable level of debt as I pursued my training,” she says. “The support for students who are underrepresented in medicine is very special at Mount Sinai.”
Kosj Yamoah, MD, PhD, ISMMS ’10
His commitment to the goals of Mount Sinai’s MD/PhD program motivated his choice of radiation oncology, a field he sees as very connected to both scientific research and patient care. Dr. Yamoah’s passion for global health was nurtured at Mount Sinai—the school’s “focus on global health and the developing world is exceptional,” he says. He ultimately intends to seek a position in a U.S. institution that partners with organizations working directly in the developing world.