THE STU­DENT NEXT DOOR

U of S se­nior who lives across the street from med­i­cal col­lege will start at­tend­ing there next fall.

The Times-Tribune - - Briefly - STAFF WRITER BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL

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: shofius@timessham­rock.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

JA­SON FARMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Di­pam Shah grew up in Mid­town Apart­ments, back­ground, and en­rolled in the Com­mon­wealth Med­i­cal Col­lege’s path­way pro­gram for high school stu­dents. Mr. Shah, 20, will start at­tend­ing the col­lege as a first-year med­i­cal stu­dent next year.

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