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June 4, 2010 > Headed for Careers in Medicine

Headed for Careers in Medicine

High School Seniors Earn Washington Hospital Service League Scholarships

Alexander Prucha has always been curious by nature. So he is considering a career in medical research or possibly becoming a neurosurgeon. After suffering from vision problems as a small child, Stephanie Tsoi wants to help preserve people's eyesight. It looks like ophthalmology may be her career path. No matter what they eventually decide to specialize in, the high school seniors are headed for careers in medicine and will benefit from a Washington Hospital Service League Health Career Scholarship each was recently awarded.

"It's quite an honor to receive the scholarship," says Prucha, who will soon graduate from American High School in Fremont and will attend the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall. "The scholarship will help cover some expenses."

Both Prucha and Tsoi received four-year scholarships, awarded every spring by the Washington Hospital Service League to hospital district residents enrolled in health-related programs at an undergraduate or graduate school. Scholarship winners receive $1,000 each year. In addition, two one-time $1,000 scholarships were awarded to Puja Dadhania and Jaimish Gwalani.

"It was a difficult decision this year," says Chris Rebello, Chair of the Washington Hospital Service League Scholarship Committee. "The kids were phenomenal. We had nine outstanding candidates who were interviewed by a five-member panel that included Roma Sharma, Maria Teresa Artuz, Dr. John Mehigan and Martha Kennedy, RN."


Cancer Research

Prucha has already tried his hand at research thanks to an internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory last summer. He spent two months working on a cancer research project that focused on using antibodies to stop cancer cell growth.

"It was an intense and amazing experience," he says. "Research is tentatively the route I'd like to go. I can't imagine a better feeling than knowing you discovered something that will save lives."

He has been interested in pursuing a career in medicine as long as he can remember. His grandfather was born with a congenital heart disease and his mother devoted her life to the study of health.

"For whatever reason, people do end up in the hospital and they need to get the best care possible," Prucha says. "I'd like to be part of making sure the best care and the best treatments are available."

His interest in health care spurred him to volunteer at Washington Hospital, where he worked in the critical care unit for about two years. He staffed the information desk and served as a liaison for patients' families, talking to doctors and nurses on their behalf.

"On a few occasions, I provided emotional support when a patient passed away," Prucha says. "I remember talking to one woman who was very upset because she hadn't been able to spend much time with her dad and then he was gone. I could relate because I'd lost my grandfather to cancer. In the end, we had a good conversation about family and life. It felt good to be able to comfort someone during a very difficult time."


Seeing Clearly

Tsoi also spent the last couple years volunteering at Washington Hospital. She worked at the information desk in the lobby, providing directions to patients and visitors, and helping to discharge patients.

"The charge nurse would call down when someone was being discharged and I would pick them up in a wheelchair and take them out front," she says. "I loved discharging the mothers and their newborns. Everyone was so happy."

As a young child, Tsoi was diagnosed with an eye disorder that required her to wear an eye patch for a few years, and now she wears a contact in one eye. So when it came time to work on her senior project at Irvington High School in Fremont, she decided to focus on helping children get early eye care.

Tsoi had the opportunity to shadow a local ophthalmologist and even stand in during a surgical procedure. She also volunteered with Lion's Club International, helping to conduct eye exams for underprivileged children.

"It was a very rewarding experience," she says. "I want to do something that contributes to people's lives, really helps people."

As the daughter of a nurse and a doctor, Tsoi started thinking about becoming a doctor at an early age.

"I think I have a biological predisposition to be in the medical field," she jokes. "I grew up hearing stories about what it's like to work in a hospital."

After serving as a counselor at Girl Scout camp this summer, Tsoi will head to San Diego in the fall to attend the University of California, San Diego.

"I am in the top 1 percent of admitted applicants there, and that comes with some perks like early registration," she says. "It also has a great medical school. So we'll see how it goes."


Learn More

To learn more about scholarships and volunteering at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/giving or call (510) 791-3465.

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