Sarina Amin was born and raised in Orlando. Her family is still here, and she missed the area when she left for college.  That’s a big reason why she took a chance on a new medical school four years ago.

On Friday, May 17 she and 35 of her classmates will become the first class to graduate from UCF’s College of Medicine.

“If anything I think the fact UCF was a new school helped me,” Amin said. “I had so many opportunities I never would have had at established schools. I feel like I made a difference here. I’m graduating with no debt. I got into my first choice for residency (at the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital), and I got to stay home. Who could ask for more?”

Like all of her classmates, the 24-year-old earned a full scholarship worth $160,000 to attend UCF. Community members, businesses and other organizations donated the money to make the scholarships possible.

“The scholarship was definitely a factor in my decision to come here,” Amin said. “But more important was coming here and talking to the dean and the professors. They all had experience creating a medical school.”

Medical college dean Deborah German said she was looking for pioneering spirits who would not only get their degrees, but also help UCF build a model medical education system of the 21st century.

Amin helped establish several clubs and organizations at the medical school, and she also worked with professors to help create a challenging, yet student-friendly curriculum. The result of one such collaboration is the publication of study cards by a textbook company that medical students across the nation will be able to use to prepare for the national board exams associated with earning a medical degree.

At Shands Hospital, Amin will specialize in ophthalmology because she believes that correcting a patient’s vision problem “will give them their life back and improve the quality of life for the patient and the patient’s family.”

She’ll have a busy summer before starting at Shands in July. She is planning her wedding and will be moving into her first home.

“It’s an amazing time,” Amin said. “Lots of new and exciting changes are keeping me busy. It’s a little hectic, but completely worthwhile.”

Amin hopes to return to UCF in the future to teach medical students and perhaps work at a local hospital. She also wants to travel with a nonprofit group that provides eye care to patients in developing nations.

“I’m a strong advocate of global health and local volunteerism,” she said. “It’s one of the ways I want to give back to the community. I definitely want to give back and pay forward the generosity that was shown to me.”

Amin said she and her classmates are eternally grateful to the donors who provided the money to make the full scholarships possible.

“Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the opportunity this scholarship gave me,” Amin said. “It will be a huge relief to graduate without the burden of medical school debt. Some of my friends (at other schools) have huge debts and that means that for a long time they’ll be worried about paying back loans.”

The scholarships also gave Amin another unique opportunity. She got to know her donor – Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation. She met with representatives from the group often for lunch and conversation.

“I have a big family who is coming to graduation, something like 20 people,” Amin said with a smile. “And the whole office at Edyth Bush is coming, too. They moved a meeting so they could all attend. I’m very lucky to have such wonderful support.”