Ana and Zoya Rahman of Mountain Top, Pa., share a similar college experience. They take interesting classes. Join exciting clubs. Make new friends. But these biology majors have a lot more in common than the average student. They’re twins. And genetics isn’t the only thing they share: Ana and Zoya were recently both accepted into the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
“I got the email ten seconds before her,” Ana says. “So, then I was like, ‘oh okay, I didn’t make it.’ ” Zoya adds. “Then she did get the email,” Ana explains, laughing. “We both started sobbing, and screaming and crying. We ran to our older sister and hugged her because we got in.”
The sisters’ acceptance into the program was a weight off their shoulders as the school already felt like it could be home to them. “The community aspect of Geisinger was a huge part of it,” Ana explains. “They also do a lot of events with the community as well as [focus on] culture and diversity which are important to us.”
The sisters credit two things for their acceptance into medical school: their scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)—which differed by one point— and their experiences at Wilkes.
“Wilkes is a great place for pre-med students,” Zoya concludes. “We receive so much attention, especially with the Guthrie (Scholars) program. It makes it unique to our program and the student unique as well.”
The sisters’ credit many of the faculty and staff at Wilkes for helping them along the way including Constance Dombroski, director of the Center for Health Sciences and Student Success. “I look forward to seeing everything they achieve as medical students and as future physicians. Wilkes provides an excellent science foundation to properly prepare students for success in medical school,” Dombroski says. “In addition, the Center for Health Sciences and Student Success provides individual and group professional development programming and hands-on patient care experiences for interested students that will assist with the application process.”
Though academics are important to the sisters, they know that how they spent their time on campus would make them stand out in the medical school application process.
“Grades are important but being well-rounded, having things you’re passionate about, culture is a huge thing when applying now. They look at everything now,” Zoya says. The two participated in research outside of the common pre-med requirements. Working with professor of biology Jeffrey Stratford, they worked in ornithology, the scientific study of birds. It was a topic that made them a stand-out during their medical school interviews.
“We did bird research: that’s not common in medical school students,” Ana added.
Their unique experience included sharing summers volunteering with Women Empowered by Science with Debra Chapman, faculty of practice in biology. The program encourages middle-school girls to pursue careers in science. They also worked in the tutoring center with Alberto Prado, coordinator of the learning center, making memories along the way. Ana and Zoya were encouraged by assistant professor of biology Linda Gutierrez to apply for the Guthrie Scholar program – a life-changing opportunity for pre-med students. Their acceptance, they explain, is because of the support of Gutierrez.
The pre-med students will now complete their Guthrie clinical term this semester as part of the Guthrie Scholars program. The program is designed to give qualified Wilkes juniors and seniors who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine the opportunity to earn 15 credits while gaining first-hand knowledge of the life of a physician. When asked what they are most excited for in the Guthrie program, the answer was unanimous: the life flight helicopter.
While they share the enthusiasm for the experience ahead, the sisters do plan to follow different paths once they begin their journey in medicine.
“I’m 95 percent sure I want to be a pediatrician because I love to work with children,” Zoya says. “I did Women Empowered by Science here, and after that I knew I wanted to work with kids.” But Ana is ready to explore her options, saying, “They always tell you, you’ll never know, but you’ll feel strong about something. Then, you’ll get there and experience new things.”
With new experiences on the horizon, the sisters admit their closeness to one another is something that won’t change.
“At Wilkes, having each other was so helpful because you had someone you can depend on 24/7. We had the same classes, we’d study together—if someone missed notes, the other would have it,” Zoya explains. “Any time we felt the stress of being pre-med, and pulling all-nighters to keep our grade point average up, we could always go to each other.” Now, they’ll continue that relationship into medical school.