Marysol Encarnacion’s varied academic, professional and service experiences as a Drexel University College of Medicine student have solidified her determination to tackle health disparities and improve health outcomes for those underserved by medicine.
It's a goal rooted in personal experience for Encarnacion, whose family has always lived below the poverty line, and one she has been empowered to pursue by a full-tuition scholarship provided by the College.
Scholarship opens doors to myriad opportunities
Encarnacion received funding from the Dr. Susan Northwall Scholarship Fund, established by Dr. Brian Alper ’96 and his wife, Karen, as well as the Schleyer Family Matching Gift Challenge for Scholarships in Medicine, established by Trustee Emeritus William T. Schleyer ’73, his wife, Mary Zygala, and family.
Thanks to scholarship funding, Encarnacion says, "This will be the first time in my life I will not have to worry about finances. I will be able to thrive in a challenging and stimulating academic center to pursue a lifelong dream of mine."
For Encarnacion, thriving includes pursuing comprehensive coursework on topics like anatomy and physiology, public health, health policy and clinicals skills, as well as opportunities to conduct research and care for patients. She also serves as co-president of the Latino Medical Student Association. In many instances, Encarnacion found that her background helped her forge effective connections with the diverse patient base that College of Medicine students are trained to serve.
“I hope to contribute to the body of public health work that focuses on health disparities and interventions to improve outcomes.”
One of Encarnacion's most memorable experiences was volunteering at a health fair held by the Nationalities Service Center, an immigrant and refugee service organization. There she found herself not only measuring attendees' basic vital signs but also becoming an impromptu Spanish translator for doctors and patients.
"That experience bolstered my interest in providing care for immigrant populations, a group with specific primary care needs that are often not met," Encarnacion says.
This past summer, Encarnacion worked at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, gaining hands-on experience in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. She learned about clinical conditions like traumatic brain injury and amputee rehabilitation while assisting patients in the inpatient program, and she conducted research on cerebral palsy and mitochondrial function.
A commitment to shaping medicine's future
Encarnacion says that this work, as well as the clinical rotations in her future, are providing her with invaluable exposure and training as she settles upon a specialty that's the best fit. Regardless of where she focuses her career, however, Encarnacion is committed to improving medicine to be more accessible and inclusive.
"I hope to contribute to the body of public health work that focuses on health disparities and interventions to improve outcomes," Encarnacion says. "With my research and writing experience, I want to bring these issues to the political forefront so that policy changes can be made for those who may not have a voice in the conversation. I also want to continue my role in mentoring others who are underrepresented in medicine so that more people with a similar background as my own can be a part of said conversation."