UOG bio major connects aspiring medical students with physicians


University of Guam students participating in the Health Opportunities and Medical Exposure Program for the first time give the UOG Tridents symbol at the completion of the program in early August. From left, Victoria Flisco, a fourth-year biomedical track biology major at University of Guam, co-founder of UOG’s Premedical Chapter of the American Medical Student Association, and program coordinator for the Health Opportunities and Medical Exposure (HOME) Program; biology majors Gabriel Borg, Ella Macatugal, and Vincent Borja; Dr. Amanda del Rosario, a pediatrician at American Medical Center and executive director of HOME; biology major Terance Camacho; and chemistry and biology major Amanda Cruz.

University of Guam students with an interest in medicine are gaining first-hand experience with local physicians through UOG’s first-time participation with the nonprofit program Health Opportunities and Medical Exposure. The program initially served high school students but this year opened applications to college students as well.

UOG student Victoria Flisco co-founded UOG’s Premedical Chapter of the American Medical Student Association a few years ago, and it became a connection point for the HOME Program to college students on the premedical path. Flisco later volunteered to become the program coordinator for HOME, building a conduit for premedical students to the program.

“Throughout my years as an undergraduate, I noticed that there was a dearth in medical-related opportunities here in Guam to help premedical students advance in their career paths,” said Flisco, who is a fourth-year biology major on the biomedical track. “I tried to do what I could to ensure that there are continuing opportunities for those who aspire to become a medical doctor as I do.”

Five UOG students were selected for the program from UOG’s AMSA chapter: biology majors Gabriel Borg and Vincent Borja, chemistry and biology major Amanda Cruz, and biomedical track biology majors Ella Macatugal and Terance Camacho. They were up against more than 80 high school and college applicants overall.

The program paired the students with a local physician to shadow over the course of the summer.

“I wanted to join the HOME Program to gain an understanding of how a career in the medical field would be,” said Borja, who is in his third year at UOG.

Borja, who is interested in pursuing dermatology, shadowed Dr. Erika M. Alford, an endocrinologist at the American Medical Center, and several of the center’s nurses for eight hours per week for two months.

“One thing that I took away from the program is a priceless connection with the physician I shadowed,” he said. “I do my best to remain in contact with her, and I know I can always go to her for any advice I may need in my journey in the medical field.”

As program coordinator, Flisco handles communications with the mentors and reviews the students’ progress throughout the summer.

“I have experienced shadowing before and have had amazing medical doctors as mentors,” Fliso said. “I am happy to assist a program that paves a way so that other students who have no shadowing experiences can have the opportunity to learn from doctors and experience persevering through the challenges of practicing medicine to help the people of Guam.”

Although UOG does not offer a pre-medical major, as of the Fanuchånan 2018 semester, it offers a biomedical track under the Biology Program for students wanting to enter medical, optometry, veterinary, dental, and pharmacy programs. Through the biomedical track, a student can receive academic credit for biomedically focused courses—including microbiology, molecular biology, anatomy, and physiology—that can serve as prerequisites for medical schools that students are aiming to attend.

“The HOME Program has been highly effective in placing students with medical professionals and serves as an excellent liaison between the medical professionals and our division,” said Laura A.F. Biggs, an assistant professor of physiology and STEM education and the pre-pharmacy adviser at UOG. 

Other participating clinics were Guam Radiology Consultants, FHP Health Center, One Love Pediatrics, IHP Medical Group, Pacific Hand Surgery Center, Dr. Shieh’s Clinic, and The Neurology Clinic.

Flisco is continuing to work with the program in preparation for next summer’s shadowing opportunities. For the 2019 cohort, she said she hopes to have even more volunteer mentors and host clinics to be able to expand the program’s curriculum. (UOG)

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