Premed at WC
Never underestimate the power of “career day.” Sean Scarpiello ’14 was in kindergarten when he first glimpsed his future, thanks to his classmates’ parents in the medical profession.
“By the time I was in fifth grade, I knew I wanted to get into medicine,” Scarpiello says. A local doctor invited the young boy to go on rounds with him at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he met the neurologist who would become his longtime mentor. Dr. Emil Matarese, now director of the Concussion Program at Capital Health Institute for Neurosciences in Princeton, made arrangements for Scarpiello to work with a stroke survivor.
“This man was completely paralyzed on his right side,” Scarpiello recalls. “He had to relearn how to drive, how to read, how to live on his own. I worked with him after school for two or three hours every Friday, from sixth grade through high school.”
A biology major with a chemistry minor and a concentration in biochemistry, Scarpiello came to Washington College ready to jump into the premedical program.
“Being premed at Washington College is really fun,” he says. “There are certain core classes you have to take, but you could conceivably also be an arts major. I am really drawn to biology, biochemistry, and evolutionary biology, but I also took a lot of classes in English and philosophy. Here at Washington College, you can get a lot of experience in other fields. I graduated from high school with 1,000 other students, so we generally could focus on only one activity. Here, you can do so much.”
Scarpiello, the vice president of his class, is a Resident Assistant, an executive officer in student government, a member of the biology steering committee, and active in HOSA, Tri-Beta, ODK, and the Chemistry Honor Society. He is also a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. Then there’s summer research, job shadowing, and internships. Scarpiello has done it all.
“One of the coolest things I’ve done inspired my senior capstone project,” he says. Scarpiello spent one summer investigating how the crop safflower can be used as a diabetic therapy. As part of his senior capstone project, he explored the exact biochemical mechanism of safflower as a therapy under the guidance of Professor Mindy Reynolds.
But what Scarpiello experienced last summer is remarkable, even by Washington College standards. With the support of Professor Kate Verville, his premedical advisor, Scarpiello landed an internship at Children’s National Hospital that offered him extraordinary access to the medical and surgical staff treating tiny patients with congenital heart disease. The internship at one of the world’s best hospitals is awarded to one Washington College student each year, and is made possible by a Washington College parent associated with Children’s.
“I was there to learn and observe, from June through August,” he says. “I shadowed doctors. I spent time in the outpatient clinic and in the critical care unit. I scrubbed in for cardiothoracic surgeries. And I was invited to sit in on the Critical Event Review Board that met each Monday to discuss individual cases. I was able to see how medical ethics inform patient care. I have a good understanding now of what it’s like to be a pediatric cardiologist.”
And it’s well within reach. Scarpiello took the MCATS in January and will be applying to medical schools this May.
“I definitely want to specialize,” he says, “maybe in cardiology, neurology, or orthopedics. Science has always been fascinating, but it’s really the people who draw me to medicine. Patients come to the hospital scared, confused, or in pain, and doctors are able to take away the mystery of what’s going on. One aspect I enjoyed about pediatrics was not only being able to treat the young patient, but also give peace of mind to the patient’s entire family.”