THE STUDENT NEXT DOOR
U of S senior who lives across the street from medical college will start attending there next fall.
Dipam Shah grew up across the street from his future.
As a new immigrant from India, he and his friends played cricket, basketball and volleyball on the lot across Pine Street from Midtown Apartments in Scranton. When the Commonwealth Medical College began building its headquarters on the property, he and his friends had to find another place to play.
Now 20, Mr. Shah will attend the Commonwealth Medical College next fall, the first student to enroll in the college’s pathway program in high school and then be admitted to the medical school.
“I’m just so full of joy for him and his family,” said Ida L. Castro, the college’s vice president for government and community relations and chief diversity officer. “It’s like having a kid who goes to college. I feel like he’s one of my own.”
Mr. Shah went to school in India through fourth grade, when his family moved to New Jersey, and then to Scranton. As his English became stronger, he accompanied his parents and other new immigrants to doctor’s appointments. As he translated Gujarati and Hindi, he became interested in health care.
As a student at Scranton High in 2011, he learned about the college’s Regional Education Academy for Careers in Health Higher Education Initiative, more commonly known as REACH-HEI. Ms. Castro and Maureen Murtha, the program’s administrator, spoke to his class about opportunities in the medical field and how the new initiative would prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter and graduate from medical or other health profession schools.
That summer, he spent more than a month in the building he can see from his front door. Before that, he never thought he would have the chance to go to medical school there.
“It wasn’t even in the back of my mind,” he said.
With REACH-HEI, he found help with SAT preparation and how to apply for college. He spent time in the anatomy and research labs and started to learn from some of the best physicians in the region.
Throughout college at the University of Scranton, where he studies biochemistry and molecular biology and will graduate in the spring, he received help and guidance from the medical school. As he learned more about medicine, he knew he wanted to help ease the shortage of physicians in Northeast Pennsylvania. He knew he wanted to attend TCMC.
This fall, he went through the same application process as the other 7,000 applicants.
When he received his acceptance email earlier this month, which was followed by a formal letter two days later, he began to jump up and down. His thrilled parents called relatives. And then he reached out to the TCMC employees who helped guide him.
“It would have been tough to get to medical school without the program,” Mr. Shah said. “I’m not sure where I would have found the guidance.”
At one time, with the help of a federal grant, the program included 500 high school, undergraduate and pre-matriculating first-year medical students. About 100 students are in the program now, but a recent $75,000 grant from PPL will soon enable the college to add additional high school students from Scranton, Ms. Castro said. About 80 percent of students in the program are first-generation college students.
Starting in the fall, Mr. Shah will leave his family’s apartment and walk across the street as a first-year medical student.
“We’re hoping many more like Dipam follow,” Ms. Castro said. Contact the writer: email@example.com, @hofiushallTT on Twitter
“It’s like having a kid who goes to college. I feel like he’s one of my own.” Ida L. Castro The Commonwealth Medical College official speaking about Dipam Shah