And She's Only Just Begun
by Carole Walker
Magdala Chery '14 has already left an indelible mark on the Stratford campus and she's just completed her first year of medical school. This second-year student from West Orange was working on a Master's degree at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at SOM when she won an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship for launching the Strong I Stand (Project S.I.S.) — Empowering Girls Project. Her program for pre-adolescent girls in Camden aims to help them understand themselves better mentally, emotionally and physically.
"My former roommate had been a 2009-2010 Schweitzer fellow, and when she became familiar with my work with disadvantaged girls, she suggested that I apply for the fellowship." Chery was aware that many adolescent girls in Camden come from academically, socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds and lack positive female role models in their lives. Applying for the fellowship with this in mind, she felt Camden would be a great environment for her idea. "I was both humbled and elated when my project was selected for the 2010-2011 academic year, especially since it will be funded through the 2012 school year."
Chery also received the New Jersey Osteopathic Education Foundation Scholarship, which helped pay for that first year of medical school, and she got a Silver TOUCH Award from the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents, for volunteering more than 50 hours to teach the osteopathic approach to medicine in community health programs last year.
In April, she was chosen as a 2011 Paul Ambrose Scholar because of her keen interest in public health and preventive care. What won her this distinction was a proposal to conduct a dating violence and self-esteem workshop for teenage girls in Camden. In June, all the scholars traveled to Washington, D.C. for a weekend symposium on public health and community project planning, and to meet and speak with influential health professionals including the current U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, MD.
Chery's awards don't stop there, however. She earned a Rossnick Humanitarian Grant from the American Osteopathic Foundation, which helped fund a medical mission to Costa Rica, along with three classmates. "We provided medical care to underserved Costa Rican natives and some immigrant Nicaraguan populations in San Jose, Costa Rica. Our mission lasted two weeks, but we were able to set up clinics in three different communities."
Her on-campus activities include the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), where she is the president for 2011-2012. A student researcher, she also helps with grant writing in the Department of Family Medicine. "Being a student at SOM is very rewarding all by itself. I am so impressed by the school's ability to live up to its standards and to create such a great community environment for us. Speaking from a student's perspective, being surrounded by individuals from so many diverse and culturally different backgrounds really does change the school's dynamics. It enhances our learning experience."
Chery understands that becoming an osteopathic physician will take her beyond being able to simply do osteopathic manipulative medicine. "It's about embodying the holistic treatment approach, looking at all aspects of a patient's care. Not only have I been taught this ideal, I've seen it in practice when shadowing physicians and faculty members. As I continue in my undergraduate medical education, I am confident I will be able to take this ideal and make it my own, allowing me to grow into the kind of physician I always envisioned."