For SUNY Oswego student Naw Ka Paw Paw, earning a position in SUNY’s 2022 Premedical Opportunity Program continues building toward a dream that could lead to establishing clinics in her homeland of Myanmar.

The initiative provides hands-on experiences and preparation to address persistent racial and income disparities in medical education by attempting to level the playing field for talented and capable Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students who pursue a career in medicine.

A double major in biology and psychology, Paw traces her interest in becoming a pediatrician to conditions in Myanmar. The country’s poverty rate hovers around 25 percent with a healthcare system ranked among the worst in the world, Paw said.

“It saddens me to see children in pain, and the families not being able to do anything for them due to their financial status,” Paw said. “As a child I was always sick, and often hospitalized, and my parents had to work really hard to support me with the medical bills. So, I feel that it is totally unfair that only the higher class individuals get a better healthcare system, while the individuals in poverty suffer.”

After becoming a pediatrician, “I would like to go back to my country and open up clinics in small towns to help the children who are in need,” Paw said. “It is very important for me to accomplish this goal not only for myself, but for my people and my country, because I believe that these children are the future of the country, which is why I want to pursue a position in the medical profession.” 

Finding a fit

Paw toured campuses that accepted her, and said Oswego felt like the most welcoming campus and moreover offered the best financial aid package. She also found the Oswego campus beautiful and visits its Lake Ontario shoreline for relief when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

“I do not regret choosing Oswego as my destination, because every professor and advisor that I have had ... they were very considerate, helpful, as well as empathetic,” Paw said. 

Oswego’s EOP also provided many other opportunities, including serving as a summer EOP Peer Leader, Chi Alpha Epsilon honor society and the United University Professions Opportunity Day. 

“Without EOP, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have now,” Paw said. EOP helped her connect with other students in the program as well as staff in the Financial Aid and Education Abroad offices, student leaders and many others.

The pre-medical experience available to outstanding students like her “is really a dream come true,” Paw said.

The program’s variety of benefits include clinical and laboratory experiences, research opportunities, preparation workshops for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) exam, becoming familiar with the medical school environment and more.

“I would say that I look forward to these services because, as an individual who is interested in attending medical school, I know how important it is for students to get a good score on the MCAT,” Paw said. “Furthermore, meeting with other pre-medical scholars is also important to me because, by meeting them I would be able to share and connect with them on why I want to take the path in the medical career.”

An in-person residential program took place this summer, to be followed by an online course to help students prepare for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT, which is required for medical school entry.