By VICKI BROWN
The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville has awarded Alondra DeSantiago the $60,000 Pedestal Scholarship which covers $15,000 of her tuition each year.
On Saturday, May 8th, she graduated from Duke University with a Master of Biomedical Sciences and was also named the winner of the Dr. Linda S. Lee Professionalism Award for the MBS Class of 2021.
Alondra DeSantiago has come a long way since she graduated from Colleton County High School as Salutatorian in 2013. She went on to Clemson University and during her freshman year, she participated in the Duke Graduate School Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), a 10-week program that exposes students to graduate-level biomedical research and sciences. She finished Clemson and went on to Duke University to work on her master in biomedical science.
She applied to Bridges to Excellence, a pilot program which offered a partial scholarship to Duke MBS and an early acceptance for admission to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. She has since graduated with her MBS and is now focused on medical school.
Every summer she has worked in the medical field in various capacities to prepare for all phases of medicine. DeSantiago was employed by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control in the position of nutritionist for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program in Greenville, S.C., covering three different health departments in the Upstate as well as five outlying sites, including the Prisma Health–Upstate Center for Pediatric Medicine and OB/GYN Center. She also worked as a medical scribe at MedCare Urgent Care in Charleston where she assisted doctors with patients and documented notes in the electronic health record system.
In July she will be moving from Walterboro to Greenville, S.C. to attend the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. “My ultimate career goal is to match into an OB/GYN residency program and later practice medicine serving women and families in rural South Carolina,” said DeSantiago.
“I have also been accepted to the South Carolina Rural Health Loan Forgiveness Program which was established by the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare (CRPH). Its purpose is to encourage students pursuing medical education to provide health care in South Carolina in areas of critical need,” she said. Upon the completion of medical school and residency, her student loans will be forgiven after serving as a physician for four years in rural South Carolina.
“I have learned that Black, Latinx, and Native Americans are the minority groups most impacted by COVID-19 and are experiencing disproportionate numbers of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths,” DeSantiago said. “My goal is to have a role in addressing the disparities, that have only been made more apparent during the pandemic, by addressing nutrition, education, socioeconomic factors, and comorbidities, which are causing minority groups to experience more severe outcomes. As an aspiring physician, I acknowledge the reality is a need for attentive, compassionate, and culturally competent healthcare providers available and willing to care for the sick of all backgrounds,” she added.
DeSantiago is the daughter of Odilon and Maria Concepcion DeSantiago. Odilon is a workforce specialist who also assists migrant farm workers, and Concepcion has worked as a Spanish translator and as an Instructional Assistant in the Office of Federal Programs for the Colleton County School District.