Told they would benefit from additional academic preparation before entering medical school, two current Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) students mustered the courage to forge ahead. When they received acceptance letters into a readiness program that would then matriculate into RUSM, self-doubt crept in. Nithya Mitta and Odai Elsamawi tell a story that reverberates among graduates of the Medical Education Readiness Program (MERP) — this may not have been the presumed path, but now they can’t imagine life without it.
“In that moment,” recalled first-semester student Nithya, who graduated from MERP this summer. “It was another way to say I still wasn’t smart enough and I couldn’t even get into a Caribbean school. But I also realized it must be happening for a reason because I knew medicine was my calling. And now, I know — going through MERP was a true blessing and I couldn’t be more thankful. I gained knowledge, learned how to study and found the program incredibly valuable for my own personal and educational development.”
Third-year student Odai had a similar experience. “I was already an older student so when I learned about MERP, I worried that maybe I was wasting my time and wasn’t good enough for medical school. But I performed really well and when I started at RUSM, I felt way ahead of the game. The best part of RUSM is MERP. I didn’t like losing that time, but I am definitely a better student who is more intellectually prepared, and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
MERP is a 15-week medical school preparatory program that focuses on preparing aspiring medical students for success in a medical program. Program graduates have a higher completion rate of medical school when compared to all students directly admitted into the university. MERP is offered to students who have been granted conditional acceptance into RUSM or its sister institution, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC).
Born and raised in New Jersey, Nithya had a knack for science classes. Her volunteer work at hospitals further solidified her dream of becoming a doctor. “Without MERP, I might have failed my first semester because I didn’t have the discipline. I now have a foundation I can build upon. But, even more important than the basics, MERP helped boost my self-confidence. I realized that achieving my dream starts with succeeding in medical school and that it’s as much about hard work than it is working smart.”
Leaning toward a pediatrics specialty, Nithya hopes to eventually open her own practice and conduct research, to mirror the work she completed as a clinical research coordinator at a children’s hospital before heading to MERP/RUSM.
Nithya stays active as a Bollywood fusion dancer, an art form she learned at five years old. She also tutors young children in mathematics. Surrounded by a close-knit family, most of whom immigrated from India, Nithya said she no longer worries about what others think. “Thanks to MERP, I finally learned that I have to follow my own path and what my heart believes instead of listening to what others think I should do. And now I get to start on my journey to becoming a doctor.”
The youngest of five siblings, Odai grew up in Michigan and worked in the business world before enrolling in medical school. “I wasn’t truly happy in the corporate world and knew I could help people more directly as a physician.” His passion currently resides in the cardiovascular system, but he also favors radiology. “If you take an artistic approach to viewing x-rays and scans, you can see the beauty of the body from the inside.”
The martial arts enthusiast is thankful for his time with MERP. “You don’t initially see the beauty of MERP. But every day at RUSM, I realize just how valuable it was because most of what I learned there can be applied in every class. I definitely came out on top.”
Once he’s a practicing physician, Odai plans to start a US organization in which physicians team together to fund major life-changing surgeries for the less fortunate. He’d also like to open free medical clinics and orphanages in third-world countries. “I’d like to give children a home and place where they can flourish with people who care for them. And where they can have any supplies and treatment needed for healthcare concerns.”