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UST Experiences Prepare Calasanz for Med School

Emily Calasanz is a hands-on learner. Whether she is researching whiteflies, scrubbing in at an exclusive surgical internship, or giving vaccinations to impoverished children in El Salvador, Calasanz has become enthusiastically invested in an eclectic range of learning experiences.

She is well-suited to study biology in the close-knit environment at the University of St. Thomas. She said relationships with her professors and a can-do attitude opened the doors to those unique experiences, and helped prepare her for the next adventure. In the fall, Calasanz plans to attend medical school at Texas Tech University. She was among the 305 undergraduates and 320 graduate students who participated in the 60th Commencement Ceremony on May 15.

“I really admired the UST pre-med program for its reputation of students matriculating to medical school,” Calasanz said. “I feel very prepared for medical school. St. Thomas is not just about the education you gain in the classroom, it’s the sense of community, and the connections that help you mature and move you forward in your career. If you really want it, you can do it, and the school helps you get there.”

Calasanz is just one of a particularly accomplished graduating class of pre-health students. Of the 17 students who interviewed for dental or medical school admission, 14 were accepted, said Dr. Larry Nordyke, professor of biology and pre-health faculty advisor.

While at UST, Calasanz has been on the Dean’s List all four years, and is a recipient of the President’s Scholarship and the Elizabeth Ann Peavy Endowed Scholarship in Biology. Calasanz was also selected to represent the student body as the 2010 UST Mardi Gras Gala Queen. She demonstrates leadership in organizations such as Tri-Beta, the biology honor society and the UST chapter of the American Chemical Society. Calasanz volunteers with the Health Museum, Medical Bridges and San Jose Clinic. To celebrate her faith, she served as a Eucharistic minister at the Chapel of St. Basil. 

“I think the small classes and the teachers’ availability are two of the main reasons why I have done well at UST,” she said. “Learning extends beyond the classroom. It’s the quick 15 minutes you run into a professors office before the test and ask, ‘can you show me this again,’ or say in lab, ‘I’m a little confused.’

“Never in all four years have I had a teacher seem even remotely frustrated that they had to explain something again to a student,” Calasanz said. “They love nothing more than to help students who are interested. The big key is you have to be really proactive, stay on top of your grades and be aware of how competitive getting into medical school truly is.”

While both the biology and liberal arts curriculum at UST prepared her for her future endeavors, Calasanz said she was most grateful for the opportunity to participate in research, internships and studies abroad.

Calasanz has participated in Dr. Rosie Rosell’s white fly research since her freshman year, and has presented at the UST Research Symposium three times. Through UST connections, she applied and was accepted to the highly competitive Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgical program through Baylor College of Medicine, where she trained to scrub into surgeries, interacted with patients, went on rotations and took vital signs.

“The DeBakey program was a life-changing experience that most people will never be able to do unless they become surgeons,” she said.

In 2009, she and 17 UST students went on a 10-day medical mission trip to El Salvador with the Federation for International Medical Relief of Children. In 2010, Calasanz took a service-learning trip with Paper Houses Across the Border to Acuna, Mexico, where she and other UST students and faculty distributed food and supplies to families living in the cardboard shantytowns.

Those trips abroad were not her first encounters with adapting to different cultures. Calasanz, whose family is originally from the Philippines, lived in Singapore from age 10 until high school. Her family traveled extensively throughout Asia, Australia and India.

“Living and studying abroad has helped create the person I’ve become; I’m more appreciative of different cultures and I recognize the diversity in people,” Calasanz said. “When I came to UST, I noticed how diverse it was. St. Thomas seemed to appreciate that everyone has a unique story.

“I want to practice medicine in Texas, and it’s important to recognize the difference in cultures,” she said “After going to El Salvador and Mexico, I can see myself continuing medical mission work outside the U.S. at some point.”