Alvaro Amorin, a second-year Stanford medical student, immigrated to the United States from Peru when he was 15. During high school, he figured higher education wasn't in the cards for him; his parents had never attended college, and he had no clue how to apply.
"I wasn't really going to go to college," Amorin told me for a story I wrote about the Stanford medical school's First Generation Mentorship Program. "My parents didn't know anything about enrolling."
I talked with Amorin at recent event that celebrated the program and featured a talk by Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD, president of Stanford, about his own experiences as a first generation student. As Amorin explained, he wound up enrolling -- and excelling -- in junior college and launching an academic career that landed him at Stanford. He's now considering getting a PhD in genetics on top of his medical degree, and he was one of 18 first-generation medical and graduate students to be paired with mentors last year.
My story describes some of the achievements of the two-year-old program, which connects students who were first in their families to go to college or graduate school and those who were the first in their families to be born in the United States, with faculty, alumni and biotechnology executives who themselves were once first-generation students. And in the last year:
[The program] added seminars on such topics as "social belonging" and the "imposter syndrome" -- a common feeling among students at elite universities that someone made a mistake letting them in, and they really don't belong. The mentees also benefited from connecting with mentors in different fields through various events, including a panel discussion.
Amorin told me how much he had gained from participating in the program, both from meeting with a variety of mentors in academia and industry and from being matched with his own mentor. Natalia Gomez-Ospina, MD, PhD, an instructor in pediatrics and medical genetics who was born and raised in Columbia, was a great match, he said.
"She's helped advise me on things like whether it's feasible to do a PhD on top of my MD," he said. "She's been through it. She knows what it's like."
Previously: Stanford medical student co-authors guidebook for aspiring science students and To boost diversity in academia true grit is needed
Photo by Steve Fisch