NJIT Grad Excels in Med School: Meet Angelie

After graduating from NJIT in 2007, Angelie Mascarinas (2007) won a full scholarship to attend UMDNJ’s New Jersey Medical School.  She’s now in her third year of medical school, where she’s starting her clinical rotations. She is rotating throughout the hospital, studying pediatrics, family medicine and internal medicine.

She feels privileged to be in med school.  And she’s also grateful to NJIT for giving her a solid education, without which she would not have made it to med school.  She’s grateful also for the five scholarships that NJIT gave her – money which relieved her of the need to work.  The scholarships also took a financial onus off her parents, who have four daughters to support.      

Her parents immigrated to America when Angelie was 7.  At first, it was hard for her to understand American culture and learn English. But she eventually excelled in school. Her parents came to America so that she and her three sisters could attend American schools.  Angelie thus didn’t want to disappoint them.  She also knew that she inherited a dream from her father – a dream denied to him.    

“My father,” she says,” came from a poor family in the Philippines and worked to pay for his education and that of his five siblings.  He always wanted to be a doctor, but could not afford it. So he is thankful and proud that me and two of my sisters are on our way to becoming doctors. It was a rare moment to see tears in my father’s eyes on the day my oldest sister graduated from medical school (May 2009). But they were tears of joy that his daughters were on their way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor.”

In this interview, Angelie talks about what it’s like to be medical student.   She also discusses how NJIT and the Honors College prepared her for medical school. 

Did NJIT prepare you well for medical school?
NJIT served as a fitting introduction to my future career as a doctor and it offered many rewarding experiences to supplement my knowledge in the classroom. Through NJIT, I was able to participate in a clinical clerkship at Passaic Beth Israel Regional Medical Center, where I learned about bioethics, shadowed physicians at the Wound Care Center and Intensive Care Unit, and observed surgeries in the operating room.  This experience was key because I had the chance to see doctors in action, was able to observe teamwork among the health care professionals and was able to confirm that medicine was definitely for me.

At NJIT you majored in biomedical engineering with a concentration in Tissue Engineering.  Is that a good major, or background, for a medical student? 
Majoring in biomedical engineering introduced me to many aspects of medicine, but in a more analytical way.  I believe that the systematic ways of engineering will aid me as I tackle the medical algorithms involved in diagnosing and treating patients. The rigorous NJIT classes in math and biomedical engineering also enhanced my discipline and study skills, which are crucial to doing well in medical school.

What are you working on in med school now? Clinical rotations?
I’m now a third year medical student, which involves rotating in different fields of medicine at various hospitals. I have completed my clerkships in pediatrics, family medicine and parts of internal medicine. I also did a clerkship at the Infectious Disease Clinic at University Hospital. I will be finishing my internal medicine rotation at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, in Paterson.

Do you see many NJIT students in your classes at medical school?
Yes, I often see other NJIT graduates at medical school, many of them are medical students and dental students. Hamid Bagce, a fellow medical student here, was my partner for my senior BME project at NJIT. Since then, we have stayed close friends in medical school. We had many study sessions during our first year of medical school, especially during Anatomy. It was nice because we kept each other going when studying became tiresome and unbearable.  

You won a scholarship to med school in part because of the community service you did for NJIT’s Honors College. Can you explain that?
The scholarship I received was for high academic achievement at NJIT as well for my involvement in community-service projects. Medical schools want well-rounded students who will become compassionate physicians. So having the great academic and various community service experiences I had at NJIT really helped me get this scholarship.

What projects did you work on at NJIT?
Through NJIT’s Honors College I became involved in various community service projects: I was a counselor for the Annual Honors College Freshman Retreat and a volunteer for the Habitat for Humanity. I worked on fund-raising activates such as Henna Tattoos through the NJIT Art Society, Food Sales and HaloHalo (a Filipino dessert), which is sponsored by the NJIT Filipino Student Association. I was also a teaching assistant for the NJIT Center for Pre-College Programs, which helps inner-city students prepare for college. 

Talk about your family background and how your parents influenced your studies and your sense of compassion for others.
I am a first generation American student. I was born in Cebu, Philippines, and lived there for seven years. We came in 1991 and settled in New Jersey. Getting an American education was the main reason why my parents moved here. I feel privileged to have immigrated here because immigration from the Philippines is a long, expensive and selective process. But I am also grateful because my American education has cultivated my creativity, analytical skills, curiosity, and unrelenting motivation for learning. I am also fortunate to have gotten this education almost for free, because I attended public schools and received generous scholarships from NJIT.

My parents always said that medicine is a profession that will always be needed because there are always sick people to help. I am thankful that my parents constantly emphasized the importance of education, because it is their encouragement and high standards that have made me a hard-working and motivated student. They taught me to be an independent and free-thinking woman and to be kind and empathetic to others. 

How many scholarships did you receive at NJIT?
I received five scholarships to attend the Honors College, which generously covered full tuition as well as part of the cost of my room and board. The scholarships I received were the Board of Trustees Scholarship, the NJIT Faculty Scholarship, the Gilbert W. Glass Leadership Scholarship, the Dr. Allan R. Cullimore Scholarship and the Ruth and the Peter Metz Scholarship.

How did being in the Honors College give you an edge?
The Honors College helped me both academically and financially because it gave me the chance to network with other students who were as competitive and driven about education as I was. The students you surround yourself with influence and shape your college education.  And basically the college gave me a chance to be with other "nerds" who liked studying but also had fun.  The Honors College requirements also helped me become a more competitive applicant for medical school. I had done two community service activities, help leadership positions and worked on the leadership colloquia run by the college. 

The college also had great privileges, such as the exclusive study lounge and computer lounge that are available to Honors College students. They were ideal places for me to study. Lastly, the Honors College staff was always welcoming and offered great advice. It was actually the Honors College that organized a tour of the New Jersey Medical School and introduced me to the medical school’s admission board. It was this networking that helped me get my foot in the door of medical school. So thank you Honors College!

You also did research at NJIT. Can you discus that?
I did research with the Undergraduate Biology Math and Training Program (UBMTP) from 2/05 to 1/06, which was the first year of program. The research combines math and biology. Through this program I worked with research professors on projects using mathematical modeling (with the software XPP) and learned experimental techniques at the Rutgers Newark laboratory. It was a great experience.

What are your fondest memories of NJIT?
I always had a great time at the many events that NJIT had on campus. My fondest memories would have to be during the First Friday events, Casino Nights and Carnival Days. My friends and I always enjoyed the games, activities, and prizes they had there. I still have the karaoke video I made with my friends to the song, “Build Me Up, Buttercup” which always makes me laugh. I also have a photo of me wearing a huge padded sumo wrestling suit, so I am drowning in it and can barely move; it’s an action-shot of me about to topple over as my friend tackles me. 

What will you do after you graduate from medical school? 
I hope to be an accomplished physician, traveling the world, sharing my knowledge and treating the poor in third-world nations. One of those places will have to be Philippines. My sisters (two of them future physicians and one is a nurse) and I are planning on going back to volunteer at a clinic in our free time, and work with our aunt who is a pathologist. When I finally start making my money, I plan on starting an NJIT scholarship for Filipino students interested in medicine -- to share the blessings I've had. I feel lucky to have had scholarships from NJIT because they allowed me to concentrate on learning instead of stressing over my finances and indebtedness from loans.  So this will be my way of giving back to NJIT.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)