A local medical student received the $1,000 Myrtle Siegfried, MD, and Michael Vigilante, MD, Scholarship available to first-year medical students who are residents of Berks, Lehigh or Northampton counties. Elizabeth Y. Joseph, daughter of Michael and Fujiko Joseph, of Easton, attends New York University School of Medicine.
Joseph plans to specialize in primary care, focusing on women’s health. Her passion is driven by her experiences in Southern Africa, first during an internship through the Botswana-UPenn Partnership and then as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho.
“I want to become a doctor to use the power of medicine and my passion for human biology to provide care in a holistic, compassionate manner for all people, including the world’s most vulnerable,” she said. “My experiences in Southern Africa have further shaped my understanding of the biological and social factors influencing health outcomes.”
During her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Joseph implemented Grassroot Soccer, an internationally recognized HIV education program. She worked with young girls in Lesotho, a developing country landlocked by South Africa. In Lesotho, “HIV is a culturally taboo topic,” she said, “despite a nearly 25 percent HIV prevalence rate. Complex power dynamics put women and girls at particularly high risk of contracting the disease.”
As her time with her young students progressed, they began to open up and ask more questions. “As my students have learned to discuss these difficult topics more openly, I too have learned alongside them that the best I can do is proved support and reassurance, to equip them with knowledge that empowers them to fight these norms, and to foster a comfortable environment conducive to an open, respectful discussion of sexual and reproductive health,” she said.
The experience gave her meaningful goals for her future as a doctor. “I hope that as a physician,” she said, “I will learn to create meaningful bonds with my patients just as I have with my students in Lesotho.”
To help local medical students offset the cost of education, former Foundation trustee, Elena Pascal, and her sister, Carla Vigilante, established this scholarship in 1999 in memory of their parents who were Allentown physicians.
The Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, sustains the future of medicine in Pennsylvania by providing programs that support medical education, physician health and excellence in practice. It has been helping to finance medical education for more than 60 years.
For more information about this scholarship, or other scholarship opportunities, please visit www.foundationpamedsoc.org/student-financial-services/scholarships. For questions, contact the Foundation’s Student Financial Services Director, Deborah Monko, at (717) 558-7854.