“Are they willing to put the work in?” That’s the question Linda Gutierrez, professor of biology, asks herself when students express an interest in a career in medicine. Through his hard work in class and in the lab, she’s sure the answer for Isaias Torres is YES. “That is the difference between wanting something and accomplishing something,” says Gutierrez. Now, Torres will continue to add to his accomplishments as part of the highly selective Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP).
Torres, originally from Brooklyn, New York, moved to Wilkes-Barre with his family in 2017. He noted an interest in the pre-med program on his application to Wilkes. After meeting Gutierrez, or Dr. G. to her students, and Michael Steele, professor of biology, Torres knew Wilkes was the perfect first step on his journey to a medical career.
“As soon as I came to Wilkes, I did work with Dr. G,” says Torres. His hands-on experience started as a member of a lab team conducting research to determine the effect of propolis, a resin-like substance created by honey bees, on rates of obesity and cancer. From his first fall semester, Torres learned lab procedures, cared for more than 100 mice, took tissue samples and analyzed data. “I have been growing so much. I got so much experience from her,” he says of his work with Gutierrez.
Gutierrez encouraged Torres to apply to SHPEP, which gives underrepresented students the opportunity to live the med school experience at 12 different university campuses across the country. Competition is fierce, with fewer than 10% of roughly 1000 applicants landing a spot.
Torres was accepted at two of his three choice locations. When he learned of the decision, he had to wait until after his biology exam so he could tell Dr. G. in person. He showed off his fun-loving side, letting her think he didn’t get in before revealing his acceptance to the SHPEP sites at Howard University and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
He’ll start the six-week program virtually before heading to Rutgers to focus on study skills, health policy issues, financial literacy, career development and clinical rotations. “This is a tremendous program,” says Gutierrez. “He will be a fantastic representative of Wilkes University.”
Though Torres has a heavy academic load as a biology major, chemistry minor and pre-med student, he enjoys his time on campus. He explores his creative side through art classes. “If you don’t want to say something with words, you can draw it,” says Torres. He also volunteers on campus for the Women Empowered by Science (WEBS) camp, an immersive science experience for girls in seventh through twelfth grades. “My mom says I have the soul of a kid,” says Torres.
His childlike spirit is fitting as his goal is to become a pediatrician. Torres has two more years on campus before he sets off for medical school. Until then, he plans to continue working hard, learning everything he can and loving every minute of his Wilkes experience. “I’m having a good time,” says Torres. “That’s the dream.”