Class of 2014: Lives of Meaning and Purpose
Santos ’14 takes PC memories to medical school
Matthew Santos ’14 (Cumberland, R.I.) followed in his father’s footsteps when he chose to attend Providence College, but the path he took at the College was his own.
He spent four years writing opinion columns for The Cowl and leading tours of campus as a Friars Club member. He was one of two students tied for the highest grade point average in English, one of his majors. And after his sophomore year, Santos learned that he was one of two PC students accepted early to the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.
Santos said the College was always on his radar because his father, Dr. Steven Santos ’86, an optometrist, studied biology here.
“I remember taking a tour here and one thing that always hit me was the sense of home, sense of community,” he said.
Accepted early to Brown's medical school
He first learned about Brown’s Early Identification Program on the College’s accepted students day with Gary Khammahavong ’14 (Johnston, R.I.), a history major who also had medical ambitions.
The two talked to Dr. Carol B. Crafts, associate professor of biology and pre-medical adviser, who told them about the opportunity at Brown.
“She joked with us that, if this was what we wanted to do, why weren’t we bio majors?” Santos said.
Brown accepted Santos and Khammahavong, and ultimately, both students also majored in biology.
When it comes to possible specialties, ophthalmology is a main contender because for several years Santos has worked in an optometry practice where his father worked. However, after taking American Health Care, a course with Dr. Tuba I. Agartan, assistant professor of health policy and management, Santos is strongly considering general practice because of the great demand for those services.
“The idea of treating a whole person throughout a timeline of many years is appealing to me,” Santos said. “You get to know the person more.”
At PC’s Academic Award Ceremony on Saturday, May 17, Santos will receive the St. Thomas Aquinas Health Professions Award, given to a pre-medical senior who best exemplifies Aquinas’ ideals of scholarship, moral character, and devotion to the College.
Dedicated to student activities
As a freshman, Santos joined Friars Club and in his senior year became president. The group gives tours to prospective students and provides assistance at events such as Commencement and Reunion Weekend.
“I love showing people around,” Santos said. “I’ve honestly met some of my closest friends through it.”
His favorite event is A Night of Black and White, the College’s signature annual fundraising event. “That love of the school that so many people seem to have at that event — you can kind of see where it’s coming from as a PC student,” Santos said. “I can kind of get why these people would want to come back every year.”
“This will be us someday. We’ll be coming back to these things one day. We’re making the same relationships that will one day bring us back.”
He has had plenty of opportunities to reflect on his time at PC already. For four years, Santos has written opinion columns for The Cowl, the College’s student newspaper. He described the column as a “good, reflective way to let experiences marinate and hope that they hit home for people.”
Although he has received positive reactions to his tours — even gifts of cookies or chocolates — “hearing about an article has been even more rewarding than that,” he said.
Santos spent his scarce free time as a tutor through the Office of Academic Services, helping classmates with general and organic chemistry, biology, and other courses.
How did he balance his classes and extracurricular activities? By learning to balance books on the handlebars of his exercise bike. In his junior year, Santos began reading while pedaling at the Concannon Fitness Center. “One day I just decided not to be shy about reading a book on the bike,” he said.
The solution nicely fits some advice from the College’s chaplain, Rev. James Cuddy, O.P. ’98. “Father Cuddy said it best — if you’re not multitasking then you’re not getting anything done,” Santos said.
Tuesdays with Seaver
He also made time for weekly meals with Rev. Paul W. Seaver, O.P., a retired professor of theology. Father Seaver taught Honors Studies in Theology and enjoyed the opportunity to discuss current topics in science with Santos.
“He has a remarkable combination of gifts,” Father Seaver said. “He’s very very bright, but not the least bit nerdy.”
Several moments in his experience at the College stand out in Santos’ memory. These include getting some last-minute help from Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. while studying with a group of students for a General Biology exam in the library. Father Austriaco usually patrols the Slavin Center and library the night before giving exams looking for students in need of assistance.
“Taking the time to help us cram the night before was a very cool thing,” Santos said.
The summer before his sophomore year, he traveled to Barcelona on the Liberal Arts Honors Program trip. Santos and a friend walked to the top of a hill overlooking the city. He looked down and considered all the people below — all with unique stories. “What is the place that brought me here?” he remembers thinking.
In addition to his father, Santos says he thanks his mother for his success. She emigrated from Portugal at the age of 13 and enrolled in college while she was caring for Santos and his young brother.
“Her work ethic has amazed me and continues to every day. If I'm half as good of a parent one day I'll be a very happy and very lucky guy,” he said.
— Liz F. Kay