Class of 2021 Graduate Carolina Fonseca, MD, Combines her Passions to Help Patients and Local Communities
This past March, Dr. Fonseca matched into the pediatrics program at Ascension St. John Hospital in Southfield, Michigan. Dr. Fonseca entered medical school as a nontraditional student with five years’ teaching experience under her belt, having worked as a science and math specialist at a California elementary school and part time teaching faculty for biology at California State University in Sacramento before deciding to change careers. “When I was deciding which specialty to enter, I thought maybe internal medicine, but I realized I love working with children and parents, so I chose pediatrics,” said Dr. Fonseca.
As a daughter of a physician, Dr. Fonseca was always curious about medicine and ways to help others. Along with teaching, Carolina used research to work towards improving the quality of life for patients. During her surgery rotation, Dr. Fonseca was reading a medical journal and became interested in an article that highlighted the increased incidence of colorectal cancer in patients under 50. Looking to investigate further, she reached out to a research advisor at Ascension Providence who assisted with finding a research mentor (Dr. Amir Damadi, who is a colorectal surgeon) and a resident, Dr. Peter Ali, to help her with her study. Two fellow AUC students, Rebeca Ruthberg and Alicia Heidenreich, contributed to data collection.
Dr. Fonseca virtually presented the research project, Colon Cancer Deadlier in the Young?, as first author for the Michigan chapter of the American College of Physicians. Co-author Dr. Ali will be presenting the research project at the upcoming Midwest Surgical Association Annual Meeting. Their findings support the American Cancer Society’s recommendation to start colorectal screenings at the age of 45, instead of the current suggested age of 50.
Dr. Fonseca said her greatest passion of all, however, is environmentalism. She earned her bachelor’s in biology from University of California – Davis and her master’s in ecology from California State University. Looking to continue exploring this field as a medical student, Dr. Fonseca reached out to physicians involved in this area and was connected to like-minded students who together founded the Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF) organization. She became the founding research chair and one of the only Caribbean medical students involved. Dr. Fonseca hopes to inspire more students to join the network, where they can bring environmental projects to fruition.
Recently, Dr. Fonseca launched the Repurposing Blue Wrap project, where she worked with volunteers to repurpose landfill-destined operating room blue wrap into durable sleeping bags for the homeless. In addition, she is in the process of developing a six-lecture series on the intersections between climate change and health/healthcare for her residency program. Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn, the first author of Climate Change and the Practice of Medicine: Essentials for Resident Education, is her mentor for this project.