Romeo Joseph thought the UCF College of Medicine had made a mistake when selecting him to be part of its charter class.
For weeks, he wondered if he belonged and whether he would have to give back his full scholarship.
“Everyone in the class was so smart, so eloquent,” said the former high school football star from Miami. “I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ I even talked to the dean about it. But then we began anatomy, and that’s my area. Then I was the one others were looking at.
“I found out months later everyone felt this way. We all thought our classmates were these amazing people. And it was like a dream being part of that group.”
On Friday, May 17, Joseph and his 35 classmates will fulfill their dreams when they earn their medical degrees. And because of the full scholarships all of them received, they will have opportunities to achieve more dreams faster than their peers around the country who are leaving medical school in debt.
Unlike the shy kid of 2009, Joseph is now a confident 27-year-old who has plans for turning his dream into a reality.
Joseph will complete his residency training at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston in emergency medicine. He likes the pace and the unpredictability of emergency medicine, from a child with a sore throat to a massive trauma. But he also thinks it will be a great launching pad for his ultimate goal – helping Haiti create an acute medical system that is sustainable.
Joseph was born in Miami, but he spent six of his formative years in Haiti, his mother’s native home. Those years helped shape who he is today and what he wants to do with his future.
He remembers suffering from a painful earache when he was nine. It took weeks to get in to see a doctor, and the doctor only gave him some pills and told him to sleep off the pain. Other children had much graver conditions, like malaria, he said. There simply weren’t enough medical resources to help all of them.
“I want to help change that,” Joseph said. “I want to address healthcare disparities and help that country set up a system that is sustainable and will help children and their families.”
After completing his residency, he plans to stay in Houston for several years. Then he wants to complete a fellowship in emergency management and international health before going to Haiti.
“It’s very important to me to help be part of a solution, to give back,” Joseph said. “And to do that I need to be well prepared.”
Joseph’s heart doesn’t belong to Haiti exclusively. He’s done his part to inspire students in Orlando. He worked with Dr. Lisa Barkley, the assistant dean of diversity at UCF’s College of Medicine, and with Jones High School to create the Bridge program. The program introduces high school students to careers in health professions, encourages them to pursue higher education and gives them a snapshot of what it takes to succeed.
Several students from Jones High School began visiting the medical school in 2011. Some of the medical students mentor the teens and share their stories about how they made it to med school.
“I’m really proud of that program,” Joseph said. “I would love to come back to see some of those kids become doctors.”