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Health Center Today, October 1, 2010

The Class of 2014: Mostly Women, from Connecticut and Biology Majors

By Carolyn Pennington

Class of 2014

The first-year medical, dental and public health students are a diverse, extremely smart, and motivated group with some unique interests. Most are women and call Connecticut home. The majority of the medical and dental school students majored in biology as undergrads and many of them received their degrees from UConn. Most came directly from undergraduate school but some have taken a more circuitous route to Farmington. For the first time this year, half of the public health students are full-time and half are part-time. Most of the students are well-travelled, having been all over the globe including Australia, Thailand, India and Ethiopia. Some of their varied talents include scuba diving, cooking, martial arts, dance, and competing in triathalons.

Helping the Underserved

First-year dental student Robert Yau graduated from UConn with combined B.S.E. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering and a minor in molecular and cell biology. Yau founded UConn’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an organization that allowed him to travel to rural areas of Thailand and Ethiopia. It was during that time that Yau says he saw how developing countries often respond to the symptoms of poverty and not to the underlying causes such as dirty water, malnutrition, and education - all of which can affect a person’s health as significantly as the diseases do.

During Yau’s recent trip to the Dominican Republic, he provided assistance in its dental clinics and educational workshops on oral health to children. The experience solidified his decision to pursue dental medicine.

"These experiences opened my eyes to the realities of life that have a direct impact on health," says Yau. "As I envision a career to serve a variety of patients including underserved regions in the U.S. and abroad, I know every patient has a different story behind them and that is what makes it challenging."

Dental School Class

Class Size: 50
Gender: 60 percent women, 40 percent men
Home: Connecticut – 26
UConn Grads: 9
Other Colleges: 33
Majors: Biology – 20
Biochemistry – 4
Biomolecular Science – 3
Others – Art History, Business, Cognitive Science, Economics, French
Special Interests: Rollerblading, Triathalon, Scuba Diving, Dance, Visual Arts

Diver Turned Doctor

His experiences as a deep-sea diver with the U.S. Navy contributed to Adrian Pacheco’s decision to become a doctor. Upon arriving in Farmington, the first-year medical student was already familiar with obtaining vital signs, administering IV fluids, overseeing administration of drugs and treating diving related disorders such as arteriole gas embolisms, decompression sickness, and barotraumas – just to name a few.

Pacheco was also already familiar with the medical school because his older brother attended UConn and is currently doing a residency at the Health Center in radiology. "We were very close growing up," says Pacheco. "Coming from a broken home, we were each other’s only immediate family." Both ended up in the Navy but rarely saw each other. Now Pacheco has a chance of spending time with his brother while still pursuing his goals.

"Being involved in my brother’s medical school experience made me realize how great the Health Center is and solidified it as my first choice," says Pacheco.

Medical School Class

Class Size: 89
Gender: 60 percent women, 40 percent men
Home: Connecticut – 72
UConn Grads: 25
Other Colleges: 47
Majors: Biology – 25
Molecular Biology – 7
Biomedical Engineering – 6
Others – Anthropology, Philosophy, English, International Relations
Special Interests: Dancing, Cooking, Music, Martial Arts, Sports

Fellowship Winner

Magdalena Babinska is entering the Health Center’s Public Health program with an already impressive resume in the public health arena. In fact, the department has awarded her the Holgar Hansen Fellowship because of her accomplishments.

Babinska, a native of Poland, earned a Master of Arts in comparative politics at the University of York with an area of concentration in public administration and public policy. To fund her studies, she was awarded a grant from the Ashburn Institute in Washington, D.C. which promotes Euro-Atlantic cooperation and international integration.

After completing her graduate studies, Babinska moved to Switzerland, where she was offered a position in the Social Security Department of the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO). Assigned to health care issues, she completed extensive research on the situation of orphan vulnerable children in the former Portuguese colonies in Africa, and the correlation between poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Following her work with the ILO, Babinska returned to Poland to take a position with the National Health Fund in Bialystok where she worked as a contract specialist negotiating and administering government contracts. Subsequently, she worked as a Diplomatic Conditions of Service Officer at the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C.

After completing her MPH, Babinska would like to pursue a Ph.D. in public health.

Public Health Class

Class Size: 27
Gender: 70 percent women, 30 percent men
Home: Connecticut – 20