By Matthew Goncalves ’23

Marisa DaCosta ’22 graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in public health sciences on the pre-med track, and certificates in Spanish and health, the International Scholars Program, and civic engagement and public service. Marisa will attend medical school in the fall at one of her top three choices: UMass Chan Medical School, Drexel University College of Medicine, and Florida International University's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

In what ways did your undergraduate studies in the SPHHS help you prepare for medical school?

Initially unaware of the School of Public Health & Health Sciences at UMass, I began my undergraduate career pursuing a degree in Biology. After learning of SPHHS through a friend, I realized that its courses were closely aligned with my career goals and decided to transition paths. The courses I took in Public Health helped illuminate hidden interests I had in health disparities, social determinants, and maternal and child health that previously, I was unaware of. These studies fueled my passion for becoming a physician and greatly prepared me to interface with our increasingly complex healthcare system. Having a background in population health and knowledge of how social and environmental factors affect health and well-being has certainly made me a more competitive applicant and will make me a better physician in the future. Connecting with and learning from faculty with similar interests introduced me to many potential career avenues and inspired me to dream big. I owe it to the School of Public Health & Health Sciences for cultivating a positive learning environment full of many excellent mentors. I am grateful to have encountered them during my studies.

Why are you attending medical school and what are your career goals after you finish?

Collectively, my experiences shadowing in healthcare settings, working as a nursing assistant, and my involvement in health services research have confirmed my passion for medicine and improving the healthcare system. Having a strong interest in women’s health, I have always aspired to become an OB-GYN. However, as I prepare to enter medical school, I'm open to exploring my options. Regardless of which specialty I choose, I envision myself as a compassionate physician focusing on preventive medicine and public health. I will employ a proactive rather than reactive ideology, a holistic, patient-centered approach, and prioritize social determinants of health. I hope to serve a broad, underserved patient population to provide care to those most in need. I hope to follow in Dr. Goff’s footsteps and continue my involvement in research to mitigate the many shortcomings of the U.S. healthcare system. Specifically in reducing fragmentation, mitigating health disparities through the integration of social care within healthcare, and minimizing the gap between primary and specialty care.

How has working as a research coordinator for the Quality For All research lab impacted you as a student back as a freshman and now?

I began working as a research assistant in Dr. Sarah Goffs Quality For All Lab as a freshman. My initial motivation for getting involved in research was because it's “the thing to do” as a pre-med student looking to build their resume up. However, little did I know this experience would change me for the better in so many ways. As a freshman, I was introduced to health disparities and the many shortcomings of the U.S. healthcare system. Dr. Goff's passion for improving the healthcare system and making health more equitable for marginalized populations quickly rubbed off on me and solidified my decision to switch my studies from Biology to Public Health. Now in my gap year, still working for the lab as a Research Coordinator, I can reflect and see that my involvement provided me with many things. Working with Dr. Goff uncovered a new passion of mine for health services research, sparked a strong interest in working with underserved populations in the future as a physician, and allowed me to have an exceptional mentor who has guided me throughout my undergraduate career and undoubtedly changed my life.

Fill in the blank: My favorite thing about UMass is…

all the people I have met along the way!