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No Excuses: 2019 Alumnus’ RUSM Journey Teaches Him the Importance of Pursuing One’s Dream, No Matter What

As a child growing up in Puerto Rico, one of Felix Aponte Santos’, MD ’19, favorite places to go was his pediatrician’s office. So much so that he decided at an early age that he wanted to follow in his mentor’s footsteps and become a physician himself.

“For me, the doctor was that person that I trusted the most,” he said. “Everything started there.”

When asked what it was about his pediatrician that led him to feel like that, Santos replied, “When you’re young, you know nothing about medicine and my pediatrician was the person who gave me security. When I was afraid for whatever reason, whether medical or nonmedical, he was the person who would reassure me and that really inspired me. Being that I’m from Puerto Rico, I think the culture is just a little bit different? Doctors tend to spend a lot of time with their patients – or at least that was what happened in my case. And I think that may be a reason.”

Santos learned about Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) from several RUSM alumni in Puerto Rico and decided to apply after hearing about their positive experiences and outcomes.

“In the beginning, it was tough,” he said. “Dominica is very different culturally, but I realized [that] even if the people there are different in terms of culture, I learned a lot from them and ended up loving them. The diversity I was exposed to helped me to grow in medicine and personally and in other areas, also. I feel very prepared. I still have to learn, I don’t know everything, but the education [at RUSM] exceeded my expectations.”

Having graduated just a few short weeks ago, Santos said that he feels “nothing but happiness” when he thinks about RUSM and all he has accomplished.

“I feel very happy to have been a part of [RUSM],” he said. “I am a different person – more mature, more humble. I learned at RUSM that if you want to do something there are no excuses. It was tough, but it gave me the tools to be an independent person going forward and even if you have ups and downs [along] the road, I think that’s part of it. It gave me the strength to be a good physician.”

Learning the news of his residency location and specialty – the University of Puerto Rico in Internal Medicine – was yet another dream come true for Santos.

“It was my first choice, yes. It’s hard to match on the island – they mainly take U.S. students, and in the beginning I almost could not believe it,” he said.

Santos noted that he is looking forward to finally being able to do what he has trained so long and hard for – caring for his patients in body, mind, and spirit, just like his pediatrician did for him.

“I like to solve problems, work with a team, have direct contact with patient[s], and work with my peers to heal patients,” he explained. “Also, in IM you have to remember almost every system in the human body and put everything together, and I think that’s the beauty of medicine. During my residency, I want to enjoy every moment and be a tool to help improve the healthcare system, my program, myself, and our society.”

He concluded, “I feel proud of myself and my peers, but the biggest joy is [seeing] how my family [has enjoyed] every step in my career. That’s [a] feeling that money can’t buy. I see myself five years from now, and I imagine how I want to be, what I want to accomplish, and that is my inspiration to keep going forward.”