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SCHOLARSHIP: Living Abroad Since Age 15, Aly Klein Finds a Home at RUSM

May 20, 2016

Aly Klein at the RUSM White Coat Ceremony on May 13, 2016.

Aly Klein at the RUSM White Coat Ceremony on May 13, 2016.

“My dad always told me, ‘Don’t be average,’” Aly Klein recalls. “If you’re average—if you do the same things everyone else does and follow the masses—then you won’t go anywhere.”

It’s a message that Klein took to heart.

Born and raised in Brazil, Klein moved to the U.S. to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. Along the way, he became fluent in English, volunteered in emergency rooms and participated in neuroscience research. Now, at 23, Klein is starting at Ross University Medical School (RUSM) with a Community Health Leadership Award scholarship.

There’s a lot of words you could use to describe Aly Klein, but it’s safe to say “average” isn’t one of them.

Committing to Medicine

“I’ve always seen health care as a venue to help your friends, family, community, and get to know people of different cultures,” Klein says.

But his expectation for medical education didn’t match what was available to him in Brazil.

"Ross gave me this opportunity. And like everything else in my life, I'm not wasting any time in going forward with it and achieving my goals."

“In Brazil, students begin their professional programs—including medicine—immediately after high school. I don’t think 17- and 18-year-olds have seen enough of the world yet to be able to make that kind of decision,” Klein said. “You need to be certain that medicine is truly your path, and that you want to dedicate your life to it. That’s why I loved the U.S. model of exploring your skills and interests through a bachelor’s degree before starting medical school.”

At age 15, Klein moved away from his family and friends to spend a year of high school as a foreign exchange student in Texas. His commitment to his educational vision was so strong that he moved back to the U.S. after finishing high school in Brazil, to earn his bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

While in school, he volunteered at several hospitals in the emergency department—a field he’s gravitated towards ever since he was 14.

A Life-Altering Experience

In July 2007, 14-year-old Klein and his father flew to São Paulo, Brazil, for Klein’s student visa interview to become an exchange student. While waiting to board their flight back home, they heard an explosion from the other side of the airport.

An Airbus A320 had skidded off the runway, crossed the highway and crashed into a nearby office building and gas station. More than 180 people died in what would become the worst air traffic accident in Brazilian history.

In the ensuing chaos, Klein got separated from his father and stood alone, watching the emergency workers arrive at the wreckage. In the midst of a devastating scene, the emergency team was the one source of hope.

“Seeing the emergency crew respond to this horrible accident really opened my eyes to people dedicating their lives to serve those in need,” Klein says. “Their spirit and what they provided—help to people who needed it most—stayed with me.”

“The Best Place for Me”

It was that spirit that kept Klein coming back to the ER—first, as a medical scribe, before being promoted to night shift technician—until just before he left for Dominica.

“It was bittersweet to leave the hospital. I did a little bit of everything, so I got to know a lot of people,” Klein says. “I believe one of the best traits a physician can have is to be a great listener. Not just waiting for someone to finish so you can respond—but really listening.”

In fact, it was through conversations with a colleague at the hospital that Klein learned about RUSM. Having applied to U.S. medical schools without success, Klein was intrigued by the stories from his colleague, an RUSM alum who “had nothing but good things to say about Ross.”

“The more I researched RUSM, the more it seemed like the best place for me,” Klein says. “Diversity has played a huge role in my life—moving to the U.S., meeting new people, experiencing new cultures. RUSM has such a diverse class, and it’s an opportunity for me to take another step in my journey while living abroad again.”

Starting the Next Chapter

From left: Aly Klein, his son Charlie and wife Amber on Dominica.

Now, nearly a month into his time at Dominica, Klein has no regrets. With his wife Amber and three-month-old baby Charlie joining him on the island, he’s got all the support—and motivation—he needs.

“I think of my family at home in Brazil and my family here, and it makes me go that extra mile every day,” said Klein. “Ross gave me this opportunity. And like everything else in my life, I’m not wasting any time in going forward with it and achieving my goals.”

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Tags: Scholarships , Brazil , Texas , Emergency Medicine

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