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Luis Avila, Lecturer in Discipline-Chemistry, Columbia University
Luis Avila, PhD

Lecturer in Discipline, Chemistry
Columbia University Department of Chemistry

Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Undergraduate College and Major:
Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca-Romania, Chemistry
Graduate School:
Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca-Romania Master of Science Chemical-Physics
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D., Chemical Education

“As a chemistry professor who teaches undergraduate students, I find that Postbac Premed students broaden the knowledge perspective in the classroom. Their experiential learning enriches their questions and provides an opportunity for me to link science and society with the topic at hand. By enrolling in the Postbac Premed Program, students seek to discover and reinvent themselves, which provides me with an opportunity to guide them through that process, while forming symbiotic relationships. Their self-direction coupled with their motivation sets the stage for the possibility to impact their perspective about science in a positive way.”

Former consultant Yuri Castano is a Postbac Premed student.
Yuri Castano

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Undergraduate College: University of Pennsylvania
Major: Latin American and Latino Studies

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Political science researcher
  • Strategy and management consultant
  • Emergency Department research assistant

"After college, I worked as a strategy and management consultant, first for the Boston Consulting Group, and then as an independent contractor in the K-12 education sector. I also continued to pursue my love of the outdoors, which included kayaking on Lake Superior and off the Apostle Islands of northern Wisconsin and mountaineering in Mexico.

"I was drawn to medicine out of a desire to make a practical and meaningful contribution to people's lives in a dynamic environment that requires me to continuously learn new things."

Former TV producer Jeremy Fertel is an alumnus of the Postbac Premed program.
Jeremy Fertel

Hometown: New Rochelle, NY
Undergraduate College: University of Michigan
Major: Biopsychology & Cognitive Science

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Soccer player
  • College sports radio commentator
  • TV producer
Postbac Graduation Year: 2011
Medical School: SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine

"A few years after Hurricane Katrina, I was down in New Orleans to shoot the season finale of a television series I was producing, which focused on the ongoing effort to rebuild homes and to celebrate the return of Mardi Gras. One man who shared his story of survival had been living with his family in a FEMA trailer on his front lawn for more than two years. He spoke solemnly about his weak arms and shortness of breath, which prevented him from performing simple construction tasks on his damaged home. Although I was proud we could rebuild his home and provide renewed hope, I was also frustrated, knowing that in my current role I could not restore his health. I decided that instead of just sharing people's stories, I wanted to do something to ensure that they are healthy enough to live them."

Lise Hazen, Instructor, Contemporary Biology Laboratory, Columbia University
Lise Hazen

Lecturer in Discipline, Biological Sciences
Columbia University Department of Biological Sciences

  • Instructor, Contemporary Biology Laboratory
  • Member, Columbia University Undergraduate Teaching Committee
  • Supervisor, Genetics Laboratory courses for advanced high school students

"What is most notable about the Columbia University science faculty is our high regard for students' intellectual curiosity and abilities. This regard for students was realized in 1933 when Columbia University undergraduate researchers helped Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan earn the Nobel Prize, and it continues today. I am proud to be a member of the faculty and to participate in the development of science and in the high quality of thinking it engenders."

Jacqueline Kim is an alumna of the Postbac Premed Program.
Jacqueline Kim

Hometown: Apple Valley, MN
Undergraduate College: Yale University
Major: History

Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • High school social studies teacher and cross country coach
  • Travel journalist
  • Economics research assistant

"I have always been interested in helping professions, and I initially entered college with the intention of pursuing medicine. When I began my studies, however, I realized I had never considered other options.  Outside of the health professions, many fields appealed to me, which included journalism, public policy, and international development.

"After a few years in the workforce, I gained a better understanding of myself and the elements most important to me in my career pursuits.  I realized what was most important was being empowered to tangibly help others and to help combat health disparities in our communities."

Former event coordinator Tad Knier is a Postbac Premed alumnus.
Tad Knier

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Undergraduate College: University of Virginia
Major: Economics

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Singer
  • Waiter
  • Event planner
Postbac Graduation Year: 2009
Medical School: New York University School of Medicine

“After graduating from college, I interviewed for a variety of positions in marketing and public relations, and I was hired by Lehman Brothers as an event coordinator. I hosted events at some of New York City’s most upscale restaurants, traveled widely and stayed in many premier hotels. Despite all of the great perks in my job, I was unsatisfied and didn’t like the direction my life was headed. In thinking about what I really wanted out of life, I realized I wanted to make a significant impact on the world around me and give back to my community.”

Sara Leitch, journalist turned Postbac Premed student.
Sara Leitch

Hometown: Summit, NJ
Undergraduate College: Yale University
Major: Biology
Graduate Degree: Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Master of Science

Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • Sales and trading analyst
  • Journalist
  • Scientist

Postbac Graduation Year: 2009
Medical School: Tufts University School of Medicine

"Growing up, I was always interested in science, but I was also interested in writing. As a reporter, I felt like what I was doing had an impact on my readers, but I wanted to make a different contribution to the world. After I had an accident that required surgery, I got a first-hand look at how medical care can change a patient's life. This experience combined with my love of math and science caused me to pursue a career in medicine."

Bisundev Mahoto, from policy researcher to medical student.
Bisundev Mahato

Hometown: Lahan, Nepal
Undergraduate College: Harvard University
Major: Economics

Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • Economic policy consultant
  • Health policy researcher
  • Emergency room volunteer

Postbac Graduation Year: 2009
Medical School: Harvard University School of Medicine

“I consider myself very lucky. Despite being born into an illiterate and poor family in Nepal, I have been able to study and work at some of the best institutions in the world, with some of the most successful people in the world. Although I felt I was contributing to society as a health policy researcher, I decided to pursue medicine because I was disappointed by the distance between my statistical analysis and the people I wanted to help. ”

Former opera singer Astrid Marshall is an alumna of the Postbac Premed program.
Astrid Marshall

Hometown: Wilmette, IL
Undergraduate College: Barnard College
Major: Music
Graduate Degree: University of Maryland; Master of Music

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Opera singer
  • Web content manager
  • SAT tutor
Postbac Graduation Year: 2011
Medical School: Weill Cornell Medical College

"I was part of an exclusive opera performance training program and for two years struggled to hone my technique and compete with top young opera singers for future opportunities. I was miserable and I realized that fighting for the spotlight was not going to fulfill me, even if I did end up "making it". After volunteering as an SAT tutor for underserved New York City students and in a hospital emergency room, I realized that a life of service would give me the fulfillment I was seeking."

Lauren McCollum, poet turned Postbac Premed Program Student
Lauren McCollum

Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Undergraduate College: Princeton University
Major: English and Creative Writing
Graduate Degree: New York University; Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing-Poetry
Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • Poet
  • Veterinary assistant
  • Organ donor

Postbac Graduation Year: 2009
Medical School: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

“I was first inspired to pursue medicine while working as a veterinary assistant. A few years ago, however, a much more compelling reason to pursue medicine arose—I was a liver donor for my sister who has a rare metabolic disorder. My sister, who also received a kidney donation from my father, is doing very well thanks to an amazing team of doctors, nurses, and medical students. This experience inspired me on many levels and although my decision was a complicated one, organ donation played a significant role in my decision to pursue a career in medicine.”

Former linguist is currently a Postbac Premed veterinary student.
Rachelle Meyer

Hometown: Hong Kong
Undergraduate College: Columbia College
Major: Psychology

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Linguist
  • Event coordinator
  • Animal shelter volunteer

"I have always loved animals and known that I want to help them. I was just not sure how. While volunteering at a local animal shelter the summer after my junior year of college, I realized that my answer was a career in veterinary medicine. Since I’ve been in the Postbac Premed Program, I have volunteered as a veterinary assistant at a New York City animal hospital, served as the VIDA campus representative and worked on a farm. I also co-founded the University’s Postbaccalaureate Preveterinary Association. I love working with other preveterinary students, and I am excited about the start of my career in veterinary medicine."

Calvin Nash
Calvin Nash

Hometown: Hempstead, NY
Undergraduate College: Morehouse College
Major: Business Administration – Accounting

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Basketball player
  • Investment banker
  • HIV/AIDS researcher

Postbac Graduation Year: 2011
Medical School: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

“Gazing into the rising sun after a 20-hour day of work at an intense investment bank can make anyone question their motivations. For me, I knew that I was more than capable of handling this type of work but what did I really accomplish in those 20 hours? What impact had I made? I didn't have to look very far to see the transformational power that medicine possesses. Nephrological medicine and research gave my mother a renewed life after 9 years of renal failure. Orthopedic medical techniques allowed both my brother and me to recover from the same wrist injury and resume successful athletic careers. Through medicine, I hope to apply the work ethic that brought me success in banking to a more rewarding career and change the lives of other people just as medicine had done for me.”

Former receptionist Blessing Nuga is a Postbac Premed student.
Blessing Nuga

Hometown: Bronx, NY
Undergraduate College: Tufts University
Majors: Japanese and Clinical Psychology

Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • Receptionist
  • Reading and writing tutor
  • Clinical research assistant

"During my senior year at Tufts University, I took a public policy and health ethics class that required us to read, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Although I was immediately captured by the humanistic side of the story, it was ultimately the science behind Henrietta's "immortal" cells that inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare. Not only did the story ignite my interest in medicine, but also my desire to ensure that healthcare is accessible to all people, regardless of their socioeconomic background."

Charles Rinehart
Charles Rinehart

Hometown: Winter Garden, Florida
Undergraduate College: Georgetown University
Major: International Affairs
Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • Husband
  • U.S. Marine
  • Outdoor Enthusiast

Postbac Graduation Year: 2011
Medical School: Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons

"When I was in high school, I suffered from a string of soccer-related injuries—including a torn ACL—that forced me to spend a fair amount of time under the care of orthopedic surgeons. I saw their compassion and their ability to heal others, and I knew then that I wished to be a part of the medical profession."

Classical violinist Ben Robison is a Columbia Postbac Premed Program student.
Ben Robison

Hometown: East Lansing, MI
Undergraduate College: Cleveland Institute of Music
Graduate Degree: Stony Brook University; Doctorate of Musical Arts

Path to the Postbac Premed Program: 

  • Classical violinist
  • MacArthur Foundation grant recipient, Digital Media and Learning Competition
  • Co-founder and director of two nonprofit organizations
  • Musicians' Alliance for Peace and Fractor, Inc.

Postbac Graduation Year: 2009
Medical School: Stanford University School of Medicine

"For the past 30 years, creativity through music has been my motivation. Although that is still true, I decided to pursue a career in medicine to learn how the human body’s biological response to creativity can heal."

Peter Sloane is a brewmaster and lighting designer turned Postbac Premed student
Peter Sloane

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Undergraduate College: University of Chicago
Major: History
Path to the Postbac Premed Program:

  • Theatre lighting designer, carpenter
  • Charter boat deckhand
  • Brew master

"While I attend the Postbac Premed Program part time, I am working as an over-hire technician at a New York City theatre and as a brewmaster for a local brewing company. I am also volunteering as a research assistant in pediatrics. I decided to pursue medicine because it was closest trade to theatre production—it combines on-your-feet, hands-on work which the performance, or practice, requires and relies heavily upon the participation of the audience, or the patient."

Former psychologist Daisy Tsao attends the Postbac Premed program
Daisy Tsao

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergraduate College: University of California, Los Angeles
Major: Psychology
Graduate School: Pennsylvania State University, Clinical Psychology

Path to the Postbac Program:

  • Planned Parenthood speaker
  • Graduate student therapist
  • Clinical researcher, child psychology

"The study of abnormal behaviors has always fascinated me, which made the field of clinical psychology seem like the perfect fit for my interests. When I began to study mental disorders and meet with clients in therapy, however, my lack of scientific knowledge regarding basic biological functions frustrated me. Many of my cases involved chronic physical ailments, and I wanted to understand their development and role in a person's sense of wellbeing. I decided to pursue a career in medicine to understand the biological approach to defining and treating mental disorders and continue my study of health and healing."

Chef turned M.D. is an alumnus of the Postbac Premed Program.
Matias Verna MD

Psychiatrist, New York State Psychiatric Hospital
Hometown: Tenafly, NJ
Undergraduate College and Major: George Washington University, Spanish Literature
Path to the Postbac Premed Program: Chef
Postbac Graduation Year: 1999
Medical School: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

“As the son of a legendary surgeon, I always wanted to become a physician. After cooking for my roommates throughout college, however, I decided to nurture my talent and pursue cooking professionally by travelling throughout Europe as an apprentice for some of the most talented chefs in the world. Upon the completion of my training, I landed my first executive chef position and later returned to the United States, where I opened a bakery. When I was ready to pursue medicine, I enrolled in the Postbac Premed Program, which had a seemingly limitless breadth that helped me understand how to mobilize a vast body of knowledge and make it useful. Today, I treat children, adolescents, and adults, but I most enjoy helping young patients find their strengths.”