First-semester AUC student and First Generation MD Award recipient Stephanie Kurhanewicz

As part of a special series, we’ll be taking a look at some of the recipients of the First Generation MD Award, a scholarship awarded to entering American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) students striving to be first-generation physicians within their immediate families.

When she was 10 years old, first-semester AUC student Stephanie Kurhanewicz accidentally sliced two of her fingers open with a box cutter, sending her on her first trip to the emergency room. It’s the first clear memory that the University of Central Florida grad—an Orlando, FL native—has of the art of medicine, according to her First Generation MD Award essay.

She was in pain, and terrified. It’s likely that any 10-year-old would be. But as the doctor stitched her up, she realized something else—that the whole process of caring for a patient was fascinating. It resonated with her. Her journey to practice medicine really all started there.

“The experience kindled a youthful interest in medicine that would transform into a lifelong passion,” she wrote in the essay.

She Started Gaining Healthcare Experience Early On

As Stephanie grew older, throughout high school and afterward, she actively sought out ways to gain a deeper understanding of the healthcare sector, trying things like shadowing, education, volunteering, and holding medically related jobs—all of which gave her a more innate understanding of the clinical side of medicine.

But she also learned about something just as important: the more humanistic side of medicine. Stephanie realized that truly exceptional healthcare providers all have common character traits—attributes like compassion, humanism, patience, and integrity. It made her “strive to cultivate and reflect” those qualities in herself.

"It Truly Seems Medicine Is My Calling"

She believes that her family background—she’s the first member of her immediate family to graduate college—has helped her develop into the type of person who can harness these qualities. She hails from what she calls a line of “blue-collar, working-class individuals”—her father, now an instrument control specialist for a Michigan power plant, worked for many years as a HVAC contractor. Her mom, now an accountant, held several administrative assistant jobs throughout the years, while her brother manages a Michigan car wash. And Stephanie’s husband is shop manager and a mechanic for a Florida high-performance motorsports shop.

“My background and my life journey have provided me with a unique constellation of attributes that will offer both strength and diversity to my patients and my community,” she writes in her essay. “I believe that my modest and diverse upbringing will afford me a sincere connection with my patients, ultimately impacting quality of care.” She credits her parents in particular with raising her to have “a strong work ethic, a sense of integrity, and a firm moral compass.”

“In effect, I am driven to live an honest life where I can make a positive contribution to society, preferably in an arena where I have the ability to learn and grow every day,” she writes. “In hindsight, it truly seems that medicine is my calling.”

Blog Editor

Posted February 22, 2016 11:55 AM

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