A Passion to Serve Others
For Marisa Román, Milwaukee native and fourth-year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), the desire to help others began early.
“My mom always, even when I was a kid, encouraged me to give back and see other people’s perspectives,” Román says.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that both her parents also serve others in their professions: her father a retired City of Milwaukee firefighter and her mother a special education teacher.
Román, who has two sisters, one a registered nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit in Washington, DC, and the other a communications major at St. Norbert College in Green Bay, followed suit. As a student at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, she spent Saturday mornings working with children at the Sojourner Family Peace Center, a Milwaukee domestic violence shelter. She continued this outreach during her time at Marquette University, where she majored in psychology and minored in biology and Spanish for the health professions.
“I think it’s really important to support those who need it the most. It is easy to take for granted what you have and forget that not everyone is so lucky,” Román says.
Although she’d made the decision early on that she wanted to pursue a career in medicine, Román wasn’t sure exactly what that career might look like. Participating in MCW’s Diversity Summer Health-Related Research Education Program (DSHREP), a program that provides students underrepresented in medicine with an opportunity to participate in research, helped show her the way.
During DSHREP, Román developed a passion for research while working under several mentors, including Amanda Brandow, DO, associate professor of pediatric hematology, and Cheryl Hillery, MD, a vascular hematologist and former MCW faculty member. She spent two years in the program, first learning about the role of basic science research in sickle cell disease and then about clinical research while exploring the effects of the microbiome on pain in children with sickle cell disease.
“I got to meet so many people there who were so supportive and got me even more excited and passionate about medicine,” Román shares.
She describes her early experiences at MCW as some of the most challenging she’s ever had.
“My first two years, it was kind of like being thrown off a cliff into the deep end of the ocean and learning how to swim,” recalls Román.
But with time, patience and adjustment, things got easier, and by her third year she was deep into clinicals and loving every moment of it.
Now Román, like many other medical students across the country, is about to graduate from medical school. She is anxiously awaiting the beginning of her residency in pediatrics at MCW. Her process of finding her residency match took her on an epic trek, traveling the country for interviews and exploring the variety opportunities each residency program provided. Ultimately, Román ended up finding a fit in her hometown and is looking forward to providing care to the community.
“My passion for helping people is still evolving. I love it,” she says.