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Trio of students from Syracuse City School District unite in incoming College of Medicine class

Trio of students from Syracuse City School District unite in incoming College of Medicine class

Caption: Upstate officials say they cannot recall another time when three students from the Syracuse City School District were enrolled in the same College of Medicine class. Those making history are, from left, Birx Allen, George Thatvihane and Julio Chanelo.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Birx Allen, Julio Chanelo and George Thatvihane are making history at Upstate Medical University.

Upstate officials believe this is the first time that three students from the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) have been members of the same College of Medicine class.

Allen and Chanelo graduated from Corcoran High School in 2008 and Thatvihane graduated from Fowler High School in 2009.

“Finding three students from the same district is not common, but it has happened before,” said Jennifer Welch, associate dean of admissions and financial aid at Upstate. “But we cannot recall another time when we had three students who graduated from the Syracuse City School District in the same class of the College of Medicine.”

The Syracuse City School District alumni will graduate in Upstate’s Class of 2019 with their Doctor of Medicine degrees.

Thatvihane, who gave the commencement address at Fowler’s graduation in May, earned a master’s degree in public health from Upstate after graduating from Syracuse University in 2013. He said his goal is to keep working to improve the community he has been immersed in for so long. “When I graduate, I hope to practice medicine within the inner city of Syracuse, to give back to my local community,” he said.

For Allen, her interest in health care also stems from her upbringing. “Growing up in the city of Syracuse exposed me to the immense need for quality, accessible health care right in our communities,” she explained.

“As a future physician, I hope to address some of the health care needs specific to Syracuse, such as the need for preventiive medicine. I want to give back to the city where I grew up.”

Chanelo said he has always had an interest in science and community service, so working in the field of medicine was a natural fit. “I was drawn to medicine when I realized I could blend both of those passions into a career,” he said. “I hope to work in pediatrics, but I am very open to the other specialties I’ll experience throughout my time in medical school.”

All three medical students attribute their time in the Syracuse City School District to their success in continued education.

Allen said Corcoran’s International Baccalaureate program was key, helping her learn valuable skills and making her eligible for scholarships that opened the doors to her attending the University of Rochester, where she earned a bachelor’s degrees in cell and developmental biology and religion. “The SCSD prepared me to be successful in college by helping me to develop solid study techniques and a foundation for learning,” she said. “Even as a medical student, I still find myself making study guides and outlines the way some of my teachers at Corcoran taught me years ago.”

Chanelo agreed. “I found the International Baccalaureate program immensely helpful,” he said. “The rigor provided a strong foundation for my studies in college, which ultimately enabled me to succeed. Succeeding in college was instrumental in getting into medical school.”

For Thatvihane, his appreciation for the SCSD is more basic. “The school district gifted me a realistic perspective on learning,” he said. “No matter what the level of resources around a student, learning begins and ends with the student. The SCSD teachers and staff are tremendous and genuinely care about their students.”

With a few years left until she becomes a practicing doctor, Allen said there is one thing that will always stick with her from her education in the SCSD. “The diversity in the Syracuse City School District taught me that every individual has a unique background,” she explained. “You can’t begin to help or guide another person until you listen to their story and try to understand their specific needs. That is a lesson I will carry with me throughout my medical career.”