As reported by the Record-Journal, December 11, 2009.

These Med Students, All Sheehan Grads, Are in a Class of Their Own

By Samaia Hernandez

WALLINGFORD - With more than 3,000 applicants vying for one of 85 spots in the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine, what are the chances that three graduates of the same high school would land in the same first-year class?

According to Associate Professor James M. Watras, who instructs Sheehan High School graduates Nicholas Costanzo, Adam Grimaldi and Michael Zavaski, it is not uncommon to have a class with several students from the same college - but not the same high school.

They said goodbye to Sheehan one year after the other, and were never the closest of friends during four years of AP and honors classes. But the former acquaintances now share much more than a common high school. They'll spend the next two years together, learning the same skills, dissecting the same cadavers.

They participate in volunteer programs, traveling to Hartford to teach health and sex education to secondary students. But, most importantly, they have similar interests, passions and ambitions, which can blossom in the small, tight-knit community of medical school. Zavaski and Grimaldi even share an apartment.

"As you progress through different levels of school, you adapt to different cultures ... When you get here, it's very much, 'Everybody's a nerd.' Everybody's OK with that," said Costanzo, a 2005 graduate of Sheehan and the youngest of the three.

When Zavaski, the eldest, who spent several years working in the health field both in the U.S. and abroad, became reacquainted with Costanzo earlier this year, it brought to mind an important fact: Zavaski took Costanzo's now-married sister, Katie Burton, to his 2003 senior prom, a fact they now laugh about.

But when it comes to figuring out that UConn's medical program was the next step in life, the Wallingford natives each have very distinct stories to tell.

Grimaldi, who graduated from Quinnipiac University last year, took one year off from schooling to work in the Preventive Cardiology unit at Hartford Hospital. Now he's deciding between a future in dealing with disorders of the heart and going into surgery. But his love of the subject dates back to his youth and science classes at Sheehan, from which he graduated in 2004.

Costanzo was so impressed by the collaborative way a medical team worked to help his mother, Sue, overcome a bout with breast cancer that he flung himself into the field straight out of undergraduate studies at UConn, applying analytical skills he picked up from his father, Dino.

Zavaski, on the other hand, had assumed he would pursue a career in business, but wound up switching from finance to biology and chemistry at Boston College.

After graduating in 2007, he went on service trips to Jamaica and Kenya, gaining a first-hand look at disparities in health care. He then spent a year working on spinal cord research with the National Institutes of Health.

These days, the three students are back to spending full days in a building with hallway lockers. But they haven't stopped thinking about the school building where they met before entering the "real world."

"Sheehan set up that foundation for what we do here," Costanzo said.

According to Watras, the men also share a sense of humor.

"They are impressive," he said. "They lead, participate, and contribute.

"They're good students."