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When Plans Go Awry, Ross Helps 2019 Alumna Get Back on Track

Growing up, Claudia Fontes, MD ’19, had a “clear cut” plan leading directly to her goal of becoming a physician. But, as with many best-laid plans, it worked perfectly – right up until the time when it didn’t.


“I was a great student in high school and my plan was to get into a top university, do premed, graduate, and go right into medical school,” Fontes said. “However, when I started premed I quickly realized that I wasn’t as prepared as I’d thought.”

So, Fontes decided to put medical school on the back burner until she could strengthen her skills and improve her grade point average. She ended up graduating and joining the business world for a few years, but always knew she would find her way back to medicine eventually. Talks with friends who were familiar with Ross University School of Medicine (Ross) served to revive her dream, and she decided to apply.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Ross,” she said. “I’ve always had aspirations toward global health and going from the neighborhoods to the nations to provide healthcare, so when [I got to] go to another country and study medicine, it was feeding that travel bug [as well] as a great opportunity for me to focus without distractions and really go for the goal once and for all.”

Fontes credits Ross for helping her regain a strong sense of confidence in herself and her abilities, which she had begun to doubt.

“When you have aspirations and hear people say no or not yet to your dream, you start to question if you are actually good enough,” she said. “But when attending Ross, you begin to hear similar stories of other people who are just as good as you are and realize you’re all on a leveling field. That is when you get the opportunity to begin proving yourself and build that confidence again. Ross was a great, caring atmosphere, not a competition.”

Fontes went on to explain that she knew she had to push through the academics to get to clinicals, where her skills could really shine.

“For me, the first two years were difficult and it took a lot of faith and just pressing on, but I always knew that when it came to patient care and being in the hospital, that was when I would excel. I knew that I could connect with patients and be a trusted advisor.”

And shine she did. So much so that when it came time for National Resident Matching Program® interviews, her confidence was back in full swing.

“When it came to interview season, I felt confident that I had what it took to convey my story so they could understand who I was and let them see my passion,” she said.

This time, her plan worked, and she secured a spot in Pediatrics at UC of San Francisco, Fresno – her first choice – at least in her heart.

“I’m originally from Boston, and we had just gotten word that my dad would have to embark on his fight against cancer, so I made the decision to put [Tufts Medical Center] first because I felt strongly about Fresno that if I put it first, I would get it and that would leave me with not knowing if I was supposed to be in Boston for my dad. But I’m grateful for the outcome [which] was something that my heart desired also,” she explained.

For Fontes, graduating from Ross and finally achieving her dream is something that she finds both humbling and gratifying.

“I feel so grateful; I’m so humbled,” she said. “Being the first doctor in my family is an accomplishment that is compounded with so much more – I can’t even fully articulate it – it’s overwhelming and hasn’t fully sunk in yet. I was very emotional for a few weeks after and then you come home and you’re like, I’m a doctor? This is it? But those who love you most don’t treat you any differently so you get a quick reality check. Nonetheless, I feel blessed. I’m grateful for being able to have made it through and being able to go on to residency. It’s wonderful.”

Looking past residency, Fontes hopes to go onto a fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, and someday to travel to underserved nations and provide needed care.

“I’m looking forward to potentially doing global health work,” she said. “I love that sort of outreach.”