Sisters Share Their Journey to Med School at PCOM GeorgiaNovember 15, 2022
Jessica and Danielle Myara are much more than sisters. Only 11 months apart in age,
they've been each other's support system, cheerleader, competitor and classmate.
Having graduated with Master of Science degrees in Biomedical Sciences from PCOM Georgia, both are now second year medical students in the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program with aspirations of specializing in emergency medicine, cardiology or radiology
They've come a long way.
A rough start
Born in Flushing, New York to a family that struggled with finances and substance
abuse, the sisters were taken in by their maternal grandmother who had a myriad of
health issues. She died when her granddaughters were four and five years old of a
hospital acquired infection following open-heart surgery.
“Not understanding why we were being uprooted and couldn't see our grandma anymore
was difficult,” Jessica said. At the time, she remembers being very curious about
the events leading up to her grandmother's death.
Their security shattered at a very young age, the sisters moved frequently throughout
the state of New York living with different family members but ultimately living with
their mother who was able to provide a sense of stability.
“Despite our financial struggles, our mom tried her best to support us,” said Danielle.
“She would give us the clothes off her back and make sure we never went hungry even
if that meant she ate less,” said Jessica. When they were in seventh and eighth grades,
the family was evicted from their home and the decision was made to send the sisters
to Florida to live with their father. Despite facing adversity at the time, his daughters
believe he did his best to provide for them.
The many moves were stressful but “leaving New York to move out of state was the most
stressful of all,” Jessica recalls.
Danielle acquired a stress-related hair loss situation and went to a dermatologist.
She remembers, “I saw technology in the room that was fascinating to me.” The sisters
had always been curious about science. They remember playing in the dirt as young
children with a goal of digging a hole to China.
Extremely self-sufficient and now with a stable roof over their heads, the sisters
were able to help pay household bills from the age of 16. But, even after moving to
Florida, they were surrounded by substance abuse. They wondered, “How can the body
take something like that and still be able to function properly?”
“We saw people, who despite losing everything, continued to use drugs. I craved a
deeper understanding of the human body, how the brain works,” Danielle said.
School became their escape, Jessica said. “We fought like sisters, but we had each
other's back for everything. Friendly sisterly competition helped us perform even
better. When one of us was struggling, the other would help. We learned differently.”
During her senior year of high school, Danielle participated in the dual enrollment
program at Valencia College in Orlando. She was invited into the international college
honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. She and Jessica earned associate degrees and then
earned scholarships to the University of Central Florida (UCF).
Discovering osteopathic medicine
While at UCF, they discovered an organization called Pre-SOMA, the undergraduate division
of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA), a national organization of
students pursuing a Doctor of Medicine degree. They each became active in the chapter,
Jessica as the vice president, national liaison officer and networking director and
Danielle as the president, academic director and secretary. Due to the “incredible
team” they had, the chapter was named National Chapter of the Year, Jessica said.
They toured a number of medical schools as part of their Pre-SOMA activities. Danielle
recalls touring PCOM Georgia in 2017 and sitting in on a medical school class. She met DO student Claire Dorcent,
DO '21, and experienced a day in her life as a medical student.
“We connected well and she supported me as I applied to the master's program,” Danielle
She was inspired by presentations given by Richard White, PhD, chair of the Biomedical Sciences department, and Francis Jenney, PhD, a professor of biochemistry.
“I knew this was the place for me,” she said. “It was not too far from home and I
felt comfortable because of the diversity. It's a small community and it felt like
Danielle matriculated into the master's program and the following year her sister
joined her in the Biomedical Sciences program. They helped pay for their education
through a federal student work-study program and were hired at the PCOM Georgia Simulation Center. As part of their positions, they worked as the voice of the high-tech mannequins
behind a two-way mirror observing simulated scenarios and hoping to one day be on
the other side of the glass as medical students.
Following the simulations, Donald W. Penney, MD, chair of the osteopathic medicine clinical education program, took time to answer
the sisters' questions.
“He inspired us,” Danielle said. “He's an example of the wonderful faculty members
PCOM Georgia has—physicians like clinical professors Gary Freed, DO, and Frank Jones, MD, MPH, are an absolute inspiration,” she said.
She also mentioned James Hogue, DO, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine. “After a long day of teaching
medical students, Dr. Hogue went out of his way to teach us suturing techniques. It's
professors like this that make PCOM such a special place,” she said.
Now in the DO program, the sisters look back on their experiences up to this point.
“As a student trying to get into medical school, you remember all of the kindness
and guidance you receive to achieve your dreams.” She recalls. “The faculty at PCOM
Georgia do everything they can to support you which makes me feel truly lucky to be
a student here.”
Leaders on campus
First in their families to graduate from college and first in their families to pursue
medical careers, they are both leaders on campus. Each sister served on the Graduate
Council, Jessica as vice president and Student Government Association representative
and Danielle as the general studies class chair. Both sisters are currently class
representatives on the DO Council, a four year position in which they are the liaisons
between their classmates and the faculty at PCOM Georgia. They also serve as DO student
representatives on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.
Jessica is also the vice president and pre-SOMA liaison for the Student Osteopathic
Medical Association, a DO student ambassador, an anatomy lab teaching assistant, and
a student researcher. Danielle is a DO student ambassador, a peer tutor, the residency coordinator and treasurer of the Radiology Club, the
regional Southeast Service Chair for the Latino Medical Student Association, a student
researcher, and a founder of the campus Medical Spanish Initiative Committee.
Danielle said, “Shadowing and working with DOs has given me the chance to observe
and assist in the daily duties of an osteopathic physician, and has also allowed me
to witness firsthand the special care they provide to their patients. These experiences
have provided me with certainty that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life
doing. Today, I am blessed to wear the white coat.”
She added, “My sister has always been my best friend. Our life wasn't trouble-free,
but we always had each other to get through tough times. Today we are so proud to
stand together, side by side, in white coats.”
Jessica said, “Although our life has had its ups and downs, I wouldn't change anything
I've experienced. These times helped us develop into the resilient women that we are
today. We hope to inspire others who may be in a similar situation.”
All in all, she said, “Becoming a physician is not an easy journey, but we are living
proof that you can achieve anything you set your mind to regardless of the obstacles
and circumstances you’ve been dealt.”
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About PCOM Georgia
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated
to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied
history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and
physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science,
and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM
Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service
to the wider community. For more information, visit pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center,
an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment.
For more information, visit pcomgeorgiahealth.org.
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