Record number of Fredonia graduates accepted into medical schools

Roger Coda
Recent alumni return to speak at campus.

Alumni enrolled in health professions schools returned to campus in the Fall 2022 semester to discuss the application process with current students who have similar career aspirations. The Health Professions Advising Committee arranges these informal panel discussions in each fall semester.

An all-time high 16 alumni of SUNY Fredonia – half of them members of the Class of 2023 – will matriculate to medical, dental, optometry and veterinary schools and physician assistant programs this fall, according to a report compiled by the university’s Health Professions Advising Committee.

The 10 alumni enrolling in medical schools also represent the largest number of SUNY Fredonia graduates ever matriculating to medical schools in a single year, according to SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Ted Lee, longtime chair of the Health Professions Advising Committee.

“In looking at the past 10 years, we have averaged eight (total) acceptances a year into medical, dental, optometry and veterinary schools,” Dr. Lee said. That’s significantly higher than the average 3.8 acceptances recorded in the first five years Lee chaired the committee. The 2022-2023 application cycle saw two alumni accepted into physician assistant programs and another two into post-baccalaureate programs.

“This is a very good result,” Lee remarked of the high percentage of accepted students. “It is very common for individuals to work and gain experience before applying to health professional programs,” Lee said. “The health professional schools greatly value these experiences.”

Four of the eight 2023 graduates – Emily Gorgievski, of Baldwinsville (B.S. Biology, minors in Spanish and Chemistry); Brendan Harter, Rochester, N.Y. (B.S. Biology); Trinity Tartaro, Corfu, N.Y. (B.S. Biology) and Christina Witters, Webster (B.S. Biology, minors in Chemistry and Psychology) – will attend the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. All were accepted into LECOM’s Early Assurance Program prior to entering their first year at SUNY Fredonia.

Ally Kilburn of Watertown (B.S. Biology, minor in Psychology) will attend the Campbell University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Courtney Campese, Lancaster, N.Y., (B.S. Biology, minors in Public Health and Chemistry) will matriculate to the Ohio State University College of Optometry.

Ms. Campese credits Lee for guiding students “every step of the way leading up to and throughout the application process. Our professors encouraged and inspired us in more ways than they know. Without them, staying on track to pursue my career as an optometrist would have been a lot more difficult.”

“Optometry is what always felt right,” Campese added. She found the Ohio State University College of Optometry to be a good fit for her, noting that the school helps to connect optometry students to groups and resources that advocate for legislation on their behalf.

Kampbell Howard of Bemus Point (B.S. Applied Mathematics, minors in Statistics and Chemistry) will attend the State University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

Mr. Howard has always been interested in the sciences and healthcare, but hadn’t made a clear career choice until Lee recommended that he shadow area clinicians during his sophomore year. He was subsequently drawn to the hands-on work and close patient-doctor relationship found in dentistry, and since he wanted to stay close to home, the dental school at the University at Buffalo was always his top choice to attend.

Being proactive and involved in clubs and taking advantage of SUNY Fredonia’s small size helped Howard achieve his goal to attend dental school. “The personal relationship that they build with each student and the genuine care they take made me feel understood and valued as a student/applicant,” Howard explained.

“The Health Provisions Committee, and specifically Dr. Lee, play a very crucial role in helping students achieve their goals and set them up for success in whatever field they are interested in,” Howard said.

A wide range of experiences in all fields, from music, gaming, research and “everywhere in between” at SUNY Fredonia, helps lay the foundation for student success, Howard said. He was a residence assistant, associate justice in the Fredonia Student Association Supreme Court and member of two honor societies – Pi Mu Epsilon (mathematics) and Beta, Beta, Beta (biology) – belonged to chemistry and mathematics clubs and the Fredonia Varsity Esports League of Legends Team and was a chemistry teaching assistant and research assistant.

Logan Wilson of Selkirk (B.S. Biology, minor in Music), recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, will attend Cornell University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Eight alumni graduating before 2023 have enrolled in health professional schools and physician assistant programs.

Peter Dolce of Portland, N.Y., (B.S. Biology, 2020, M.S. Biology, 2021); Hailey Gould, Jamestown (B.S. Molecular Genetics, minors in Chemistry and Psychology, 2021) and Tyler Wirth, Buffalo (B.S. Biology, 2018) will attend the Jacobs School of Medicine at the State University at Buffalo.

Another two alumni have enrolled in osteopathic medical schools. Jacob Traverse, Newfane, N.Y. (B.S. Molecular Genetics, minors in Psychology and Chemistry, 2021) will matriculate to the Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine. Aaron Wierbinski, Camillus, N.Y. (B.S. Biology 2019, M.S. Biology 2021) will attend the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Yazmin Ortiz of New Windsor, N.Y.., (B.S. Biology, 2021) has enrolled in Rutgers School of Dental Medicine.

Serving on medical brigades in Honduras during J-Terms as undergraduates was a key factor that put Ms. Ortiz and Ms. Gould on their respective career paths.

“I originally was going to apply to medical school; however, when I noticed the poor oral health of our patients, the thought of a career in dentistry came to mind,” Ortiz said. She served on a brigade in 2020, went on to shadow several dentists and fell in love with the profession.

“Everything from being able to treat a patient's discomfort almost instantly, the lasting relationships you create with your patients, the team effort between the staff in a dental office and the work-life balance of the career made it extremely appealing to me,” Ortiz said.

As an undergrad, Ortiz participated in extracurricular activities in the biology department, conducted research with Associate Professor Nicholas Quintyne and belonged to the biology honor society Beta, Beta, Beta.

Following a pre-med course sequence or contemplating medical school were not even initial options for Gould, but she enjoyed her time spent in medical brigades in Honduras, beginning in 2020. Working in a clinical setting there – recording patient vitals and shadowing doctors – convinced Gould to seriously consider a career in medicine.

Subsequent opportunities to shadow doctors were severely limited during the coronavirus pandemic, so Gould suspended thoughts about medical schools and worked as a research specialist at the University of Pennsylvania after receiving her undergraduate degree. She returned to Honduras in 2022 with a group from Tacoma, Wash., taking vitals and working alongside SUNY Fredonia alumni Jacob Traverse, Mam Deng and Christian Pacheco in a medical brigade that took vitals and provided medicine for 1,000 patients over a five-day period.

“This experience made me feel confident with patient interactions and put me in a place where I could see myself as a physician, leading me to apply to medical school in 2022,” Gould said.

She was a program assistant with the SUNY Fredonia contingent on her third Honduras medical brigade in January. Helping students to feel comfortable and confident performing vitals has inspired Gould to someday return to the brigades in Honduras as a physician.

Two alumni have been accepted into physician assistant programs. They are Kayla Purcell of Webster (B.S. Medical Technology, 2022), at St. Bonaventure University, and James Walters, North Collins (B.S. Psychology, minor in Chemistry, 2019) at D’Youville University.

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