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Scholarships in Action
Here are just a few of our current students and recent graduates who are translating the scholarship support they received at the Icahn School of Medicine into skills and careers that will benefit their patients—and the international medical community—in the years to come.

Scholarship Support—A Tremendous Investment


Seshat Mack, MD, PhD, ISMMS


Seshat is a second-year MD/PhD student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a current recipient of the Alumni Endowed Scholarship. 

After receiving her B.S. in Chemistry from Howard University in 2012, Seshat worked as a research technician before applying to MD/PhD programs. She will conduct her graduate research in Dr. Arvin Dar's lab and is planning to focus on structural biology, specifically using structural techniques to aid in the design of small molecule inhibitors. 

Seshat grew up in Harlem, NY. At Mount Sinai, she is a leader among student advocates promoting greater access to health care in underserved communities. 

> Support students like Seshat


Eduardo Contijoch, MD, PhD, ISMMS '20

Eduardo Contijoch: I was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida, where I enjoyed playing soccer and spending time on the beach while growing up. I went to college at Princeton University, where I graduated in 2012 with an A. B. in Physics and a certificate in Biophysics. My senior thesis looked at the potential effects of x-ray irradiation on the ability of cancer cells to develop resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. Outside of academics, I was involved in the campus community as an RA, as well as a Captain for the Club Soccer team and a leader in the student HIV/AIDS advocacy and awareness group, SGAC (Student Global AIDS Campaign). 


As an MD/PhD candidate, I was drawn to Sinai because of its excellence in academics and in research. Also, upon interviewing and visiting Sinai, it became very clear that people in the Sinai community are happy to be here, and the administrative support and infrastructure is very much set up to have the best interests of trainees in mind. I came across a variety of physicians and researchers who had done their training at Sinai and chosen to stay for the next step(s) in their careers. It seemed like a very good sign that people would choose to stay in a place where they had trained and were happy. As I'm finding out, I was right.

My future career plans include having the ability to perform research at a high 
level, and maintaining some amount of time for clinical responsibilities and teaching. I would hope to be able to get a position in an educational setting. Regarding the specifics of my research, I will be pursuing my PhD in the Genetics and Genomics Sciences Multidisciplinary Training Area at Sinai, looking at the microbiome. This will surely help narrow the focus of my career opportunities, and I am very excited to be entering a field with such promise and room for exploration.

Having scholarship support is truly incredible and always humbling. To me, it means 
that I am able to do what I love: learn about the human body, diseases that affect it, and avenues for treatment; be exposed to patients and get to learn directly from them and have these experiences shape the physician I will become; and perform research at a high level and make differences in the medical community. At the same time, I do not have to worry about the state of my finances when I am done. It is remarkable that scholarships like this exist to allow students to learn when they might otherwise be dissuaded by the cost. It is a tremendous investment that will pay dividends well beyond the monetary costs and benefits—it is not just helping me become a physician and scientist, it is helping me fulfill a dream that I have had since high school.

> Support students like Eduardo.

Jonathan Giftos, MD, ISMMS ’12

Dr. Giftos is currently a resident in the Primary Care and Social Internal Medicine Residency Training Program at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Born and raised in New Hampshire, Dr. Giftos realized he wanted to work with vulnerable populations after a family tragedy demonstrated the destabilizing effect that social forces can have on physical and mental health. Dr. Giftos was inspired by the resilience of the individuals he worked with as an advocate and social worker for immigrants in Camden, New Jersey and at Abraham House in the South Bronx. Those roles enabled him to witness firsthand how social determinants of health—such as unequal access to fresh produce, stable housing, safe outdoor space, and adequate health care—negatively affected health outcomes in low income communities. Through these experiences, he says, he began to see the role that community-based health providers could play in addressing social issues, improving public health, and strengthening communities. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Giftos found exceptional mentors who nurtured his development as a primary care physician committed to community-oriented care.

At Montefiore, he is developing a practical, skills-based palliative care curriculum for medicine interns funded by a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. After he completes his residency, he plans to stay on as chief resident before pursuing a career as a clinician educator that will allow him to teach and advocate for the improved delivery of primary care to patients in underserved communities.

Dr. Giftos says he is “awestruck at the generosity” of the many individuals whose contributions made his scholarship possible. “Their support liberated me to pursue the area of medicine that is most meaningful for me, and where I believe I will have the biggest impact,” he says.

> Support students like Jonathan

Yara Elizabeth Perez, MD, ISMMS ’11 MSH’14

Dr. Perez, a hospitalist on the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology BMT Unit at Cohen's Children Medical Center, became interested in pursuing the field of medicine as a child growing up in East Harlem. She acted as a translator for her parents, who spoke only Spanish, when they had appointments at a local family health clinic. At these appointments, she recognized the communication barriers that prevented her parents from trusting the medical staff, following the advice they were given, and understanding the importance of the medications they were prescribed. 

Dr. Perez’s participation in a mentoring program at Mount Sinai while a student at Manhattan Center High School for Mathematics and Science further reinforced her desire to become a physician. She chose pediatrics because, she says, it gives her “the opportunity to help young people by encouraging healthy habits and choices, modeling a healthy relationship to the world of medicine, and serving as a role model for kids and teens who may want to pursue science and medicine.” Dr. Perez recently completed her Pediatric Residency at The Mount Sinai Hospital. In July 2015, she will begin a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center.


Dr. Perez believes the scholarship she received to attend Mount Sinai enabled her to get the best possible education in the best possible environment. “The scholarship enabled me to pursue a privileged education I could not possibly have undertaken without considerable financial support. It enabled me to balance a manageable level of debt as I pursued my training,” she says. “The support for students who are underrepresented in medicine is very special at Mount Sinai.” 

> Support students like Yara.

Kosj Yamoah, MD, PhD, ISMMS ’10

Now the chief resident in his final year of a four-year residency in radiation onco
logy at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Yamoah, a native of Ghana, knew as an adolescent that he wanted to spend his life helping those who could not help themselves. After graduating from college in Ghana at the age of 17, he realized he would need to study abroad to obtain the advanced training necessary to become an expert physician-scientist.

After two years of medical school in Ghana, Dr. Yamoah came to New York, where he volunteered at the James J. Peters Veterans Administration Medical Center in the Bronx and learned about the Icahn School of Medicine. At Mount Sinai, he pursued the MD/PhD program and specialized in molecular biology with a research focus on the protein degradation that leads to cancer. He then completed a one-year internship at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.

His commitment to the goals of Mount Sinai’s MD/PhD program motivated his choice of radiation oncology, a field he sees as very connected to both scientific research and patient care. Dr. Yamoah’s passion for global health was nurtured at Mount Sinai—the school’s “focus on global health and the developing world is exceptional,” he says. He ultimately intends to seek a position in a U.S. institution that partners with organizations working directly in the developing world.

Dr. Yamoah calls the scholarship he received “an unbelievable miracle.” Without that support, he says, “It would have been impossible for me to attend medical school.” He adds that philanthropy has a reach far greater than donors may realize. “One physician-scientist trained as a result of a scholarship will have an impact on so many lives in so many places around the world,” he says.


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