TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The doctor is in!
102 students in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson received their Doctor of Medicine degrees in Centennial Hall Thursday night.
“It feels amazing, I’ve been waiting on this day for a really long time," said Marisela Mariscal.
Becoming a doctor has been a dream for Mariscal, especially in her hometown. Mariscal is a member of New Mexico’s Pueblo Laguna tribe and also of Hispanic descent. She is the first in her family to get a college education, holding a bachelor’s degree in physiology from the UA.
Mariscal joined the UA College of Medicine – Tucson through the UA P-MAP program, which supports diverse and determined pathways to medicine. Enrollment in the master’s degree program guarantees enrollment in the College of Medicine – Tucson upon completion.
Through programs like UA P-MAP and grants, the College of Medicine - Tucson has been able to focus on recruiting and helping Native students succeed in many aspects of the medical field.
“Many, many years of hard work. Lots and lots of support, lots of sacrifices. Not only on me, but on my family as well," said Lacey Manuelato.
Under her regalia, Manuelato proudly wore a dress from the Navajo Nation Thursday night. Manuelato said the career-path didn’t always have direction in her culture.
“Growing up, it was really hard to find somebody who looked like me, had similar background, similar culture to help mentor me and help figure out how to get here," said Manuelato. “It’s a big deal to not only start on this journey, but to continue and mentor others who follow the same steps.”
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson was one school considered to be “leading the way" in efforts to recruit and support Native students. The AAMC reports the six schools, including UA College of Medicine, enrolled nearly 40% of the medical students identifying as American Indian-Alaska Native alone in 2017.
This year, the College of Medicine - Tucson graduated eight Native American students, the largest cohort, ever.
Some of the doctors will now pack up and head to the next stage in their career, somewhere across the country. Others, like Manuelato, who plans to be a pediatrician, and Mariscal, set to pursue primary care, will stay in the Old Pueblo.
According to the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson, 40% of the Class of 2019 will stay in Arizona to pursue their residency training.
More than a third will pursue primary care, a physician specialty critically low in the state.