Xamil Vega’s love of radiology began after his first anatomy class as a first-year med student at UCF when he became intrigued with the human body and how a CT scan could reveal a person’s disorders. As he enters into his final year of medical school, Vega is busy doing his clinical training at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center at Bay Pines in St. Petersburg.

“Medical imaging is fascinating, it caught my attention how you could see inside someone’s body find what is wrong, and my interest grew as time went by,” says Vega, describing his excitement learning diagnostic radiology from attending physician Igor Sirotkin.

The Tampa native is the son of Cuban immigrants and his hard work was recently recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation with the Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship. The national honor includes $10,000 in tuition assistance to underrepresented medical students entering their fourth year of study. Recipients are chosen based on their academic achievement, community involvement and financial need.

He is the second student from the college to receive the scholarship.

Vega says that studying the anatomy of cadavers with the help of CT scans interested him so much that he led his student group in figuring out the cause of death of his “first patient” for the college’s annual autopsy report, where students present their findings.

“I was the one in the group to take the lead analyze imaging, collaborate with the team and learned how to verbalize our findings about cancer metastasis to the lungs,” he says.

Vega was also part of the leadership team for KNIGHTS clinic, a free student-run clinic for the underinsured in Orlando, where he developed his love of patient wellness through patient education. He plans on applying for diagnostic radiology for his residency training and hopes to stay in Florida to serve his community.

As a medical student, he has conducted research on socioeconomic barriers to mammography in underserved communities.

“I am so impressed with Xamil’s accomplishments. He’s a hardworking, dedicated student who takes initiative and is passionate about serving the underserved and under-resourced in our community,” says Marcy Verduin, associate dean for students. “He’s also passionate about passing that legacy on to the next generation to empower them to do the same. I have no doubt that he will be a champion for those who are underrepresented throughout his career.”

“My family is beyond happy for the scholarship. It definitely plays a big part in alleviating the financial burden of med school,” says Vega, who credits his parents with inspiring him with their perseverance. “It’s confirmation that I’m doing the right thing. Being recognized and being congratulated by the dean and faculty is a great feeling.”