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Upstate student Eunice Choe.

Upstate student commits to working in medically underserved community as part of prestigious scholarship

An Upstate Medical University student has been awarded a prestigious scholarship that will pay for two years of medical school in exchange for her commitment to working as a doctor in a medically underserved community.  

Eunice Choe, a third-year student in the College of Medicine, learned recently that she has been awarded a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship. NHSC connects primary health care clinicians to people who have limited access to healthcare. They do that by offering medical school scholarships and paying off student debt in exchange for a two-year commitment by doctors to work in underserved areas.

Choe has been committed to serving in a rural setting from the moment she started at Upstate. She is part of the Rural Medical Scholars Program, which offers classes for Upstate students that focus on rural health issues. She’s also completing her third year of medical school at the Binghamton campus, which she said is helping her learn more about what it’s like to work in a smaller hospital.

A graduate of Brandeis University, Choe took two years off before starting medical school. One of those years was spent working at a behavioral health organization in her hometown of Plattsburgh as part of AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service organization. That experience, combined with her family’s experience as Korean Americans living in rural Upstate New York, solidified her decision to commit to working in underserved areas.

“Growing up as an Asian-American woman in rural communities, I experienced and saw firsthand some of the struggles that people of color face in these rural communities,” she said. “It actually took me a long time to have peace with some of the racial tensions that go on in these communities, especially my hometown of Plattsburgh. And it was actually through healthcare that I came to find that peace.”

Choe said she will likely pursue internal or family medicine somewhere along the East Coast after her residency. She’s confident her experience growing up in a rural community will help her future medical career.

“Because I grew up in Plattsburgh and people know me and know my family, people are not afraid of me,” she said. “So I noticed that when I was working at these rural community organizations people would be more open to talking and learning about what it is to be Asian American. I already know what it means to face these kinds of racial struggles and struggles in a rural community. I’m not as afraid of it as somebody who’s never lived in a rural community might be.

“Maybe I can help another person understand that they don’t have to be afraid of someone who doesn’t look like them.”

Choe’s scholarship will cover her final two years of medical school at Upstate and provide a small living stipend.

Upstate Assistant Professor Carrie Roseamelia, PhD, is assistant dean of Rural Medicine and has worked with Choe since she started at Upstate. She said she knew very quickly she would be a good candidate for her program and wrote her recommendation letter for the scholarship.

“I was excited by her enthusiasm for rural medicine. Her strong sense of service to her community shined through in our very first encounter,” Roseamelia. “Ms. Choe is an ideal candidate for this scholarship. She is the epitome of a conscientious, hardworking, morally sound student. I know this would be a great honor for her and she truly deserves to be recognized for the brilliant, genuine and compassionate future physician she is certainly expected to become.”