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Two PC Juniors Accepted Early to Brown Medical School

Gary Khammahavong ’14 (Johnston, R.I.) and Matthew Santos ’14 (Cumberland, R.I.) have their post-graduation plans in hand, thanks to the Early Identification Program at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

In the spring, the rising juniors were accepted into the program, which permits selected state residents who attend Providence College, Rhode Island College, and University of Rhode Island to bypass the traditional medical school admissions process, including MCATs, and secure seats in the class of 2018.

“They are very talented students, and frankly Brown is lucky to get them,” said Dr. Carol B. Crafts, associate professor of biology and advisor for the health professions.

The program is extremely competitive, accepting a maximum of two Rhode Island residents from each college, Crafts said. In some years, there have not been qualified candidates from the state, and Brown has not selected anyone to fill seats reserved for PC.

She first met the two students as incoming freshmen at the resource fair held during summer orientation, where both individually approached her and expressed interest in the Brown program. “Both of them would have their choice of medical schools if they waited to apply under regular admission,” she said.

The two coordinated their course schedules so they would have several key pre-medical requirements on their transcript by the time they submitted their applications, even though Khammahavong originally declared as a history major and Santos planned to major in English.

During their freshman years, they both took General Chemistry and a math course first semester in addition to courses in their majors as well as Development of Western Civilization, part of the College’s Core Curriculum. They took General Chemistry II as second-semester freshmen, and General Biology and Organic Chemistry in the fall of their sophomore years.

Now Khammahavong is a history and biology double major, with a minor in Asian studies, and Santos is majoring in English and biology. Both students, members of PC’s Liberal Arts Honors Program, will have to maintain 3.0 grade point averages through the rest of their undergraduate careers and complete remaining prerequisites for medical school.

Longtime dreams

Securing medical school admission fulfills long-held ambitions for Santos and Khammahavong.

Santos just returned in early July from a three-week program in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he took a Human Health and Disease course at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. Through the program, he also took a five-day medical study tour in Berlin.

The graduate of Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket had wanted to be a doctor since he was a fourth-grader, he said. “Having this program has really just been a blessing for me, and I understand how lucky I am to have realized what I’ve been working for for so long,” Santos said.

He is driven by a desire to help people, he said. “I’ve never been able to picture myself where I wasn’t actively assisting other people,” Santos said. “I couldn’t think of anything more effective or more noble than helping someone in their well-being.”

“For me, the perfect marriage between scientific interest and helping people is medicine.”

Santos has worked at Eye Health Vision Centers, performing preliminary tests and measurements on patients on behalf of the ophthalmologists and optometrists in the practice. His father is an optometrist and served as his role model, Santos said. He is considering the field himself, although he remains open to other options.

Santos writes for the commentary section of The Cowl and is a member of the Friars Club. He also was selected to deliver the welcome address to accepted students at Family Day in the spring.

Following doctors' orders

Khammahavong’s parents emigrated from Laos, where his mother had been a pharmacist. She studied at the Community College of Rhode Island to become a nurse and encouraged her son to consider medicine. “She was always saying stuff like, ‘Do you want to work with your back, or your brain?’” he said.

But he didn’t decide to pursue medicine until after his mother took him to meet her doctor, Dr. Frank Savoretti. “He was really nice, and that was the moment that I thought being a doctor is what I really wanted to do,” Khammahavong said.

Khammahavong heard about Brown’s program from a graduate of the program — Dr. Albert Savoretti, his primary care doctor and the son of his mother’s doctor. “He went through it and it was a really great opportunity,” Khammahavong said.

He grew up on Douglas Avenue, near PC’s campus, but moved to Johnston when he was 10 and later graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick. His “excellent” high school teachers — many of them PC graduates — inspired him to attend PC, he said.

Khammahavong plans to become a primary care doctor. He shadowed his own doctor for several months during and after his senior year of high school and was able to help translate for some Lao patients. The student hopes he can get a chance to help the Lao community as a doctor.

“I have a chance to give back to the community that’s given a lot to me,” he said.

At PC, Khammahavong is vice president of the Asian American Association, and a member of the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, and plays intramural soccer. He participates in a recreational soccer league in Warwick and is on the board of the Lao Community Center, a cultural organization based in Providence.

The family’s doctors are thrilled at Khammahavong’s success, especially his own physician. “He said now he can start calling me doctor,” Khammahavong said.

— Liz F. Kay


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