Med Student Selected as Research Scholar for Myeloma Health Equity Program
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Medical Student Selected as Research Scholar for Myeloma Health Equity Program


February 14, 2024

Headshot photo of PCOM South Georgia med student Saron Araya (DO '27) wearing her student physician white coatOne PCOM South Georgia first-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) student will spend the next few months conducting research as part of the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma program.

Saron Araya (DO '27) of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was recently selected from the competition to be one of the program's scholars. The program is a partnership between the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) and the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute's Cobb Scholars Program that pairs minority medical students with myeloma experts for six months to conduct research on health disparities. Scholars and mentors then present their work at the 2024 National Medical Association Annual Conference in New York City in early August.

For Araya, this opportunity combines her passion for working with minority groups and her interest in blood disorders.

“I really hope to gain more knowledge about multiple myeloma,” Araya said. “This program focuses on not only raising awareness for multiple myeloma, but also targeting health equity because there's a higher prevalence of multiple myeloma for people of color. Being a woman of color, I'm interested in researching that aspect.”

As a first-generation American, Araya understands the challenges facing marginalized communities.

“There are many disorders that are more prevalent in these types of communities,” she continued. “It could be due to a plethora of things. It could be a healthcare access issue or a lack of health education in these types of communities. If we're talking about communities that have immigrants, for example, there are additional issues.”

Araya's parents, Hintsa and Freweini Araya of Lawrenceville, left their home in the East African nation of Eritrea. They settled in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, where their five children were born and raised.

“My parents immigrated here to provide me with the education opportunities they did not have,” Araya said. “That's part of the reason why I want to go into medicine as well because they uprooted their lives, so that being underserved was not my reality. Because of that, I want to serve these populations. With this research, I hope to also learn about different ways I can cater to these types of communities.”

Araya remembers how she and her sister often had to translate for their parents during doctor's appointments. That experience demonstrated to her the need to recognize cultural and language barriers. She saw this need again while volunteering as a medical assistant at Grace Village Medical Clinic, a free clinic in Clarkston, Georgia, a community with a large number of immigrants and refugees.

“I've worked with a lot of Eritrean patients for whom I had to translate,” Araya said. “They let me know how much relief they had when they found someone who knew their language and could communicate with them about their health care in their language. I feel like that also makes me passionate about becoming a physician – knowing that cultural humility and meeting the needs of patients culturally and linguistically. This is crucial because it can make a difference in someone understanding what's going on in their body.”

After graduating from Berkmar High School in Lilburn in 2017, Araya went on to graduate from Oglethorpe University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a minor in public health. Then she worked for two years, first in a pathology lab as a histotechnologist and then as a bone marrow technologist for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

“I would basically be in the procedure room alongside a hematologist where they would do bone marrow aspirates on patients who had blood disorders or cancers, like multiple myeloma,” Araya explained. “I worked alongside the hematologist to collect the specimen and go back to the lab to make blood smears. That sample would then move forward to the pathologist to allow them to make a diagnosis for any peripheral blood disorders and cancers.”

While she enjoyed the science of hematology, Araya looked forward to working with the patients the most.

“I think the biggest part about this position that made me want to be a physician is being able to provide comfort for the patients,” she said. “As you can imagine, parents were coming in with their kids who had leukemia or different blood disorders or multiple myeloma. Their kids had to get monthly bone marrow aspirates, which is hard. It allowed me to see why it's so significant to have the human aspect of being a physician and having to comfort your patients.”

Araya said when she first chose PCOM South Georgia for her medical education, her parents were concerned because of the distance from home.

“At first, they were concerned with me going so far away,” she said. “It's about four hours away. But then after seeing how welcoming everyone was and how everyone treats you, like family, it gave me and my parents comfort. I feel like I have family here as well.”

Araya said she also enjoys being part of a small cohort.

“I really like how I have the ability to go speak to my professors,” she said. “They know me by name. If I have a question, I don't have to be on a waitlist to go to their office hours… I really like how it's in a rural community. I'm really interested in serving underrepresented or marginalized communities, so being in a rural community that allows me opportunities to serve those types of populations now really appealed to me.”

Araya will be a member of the second cohort of the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma program. Last year, PCOM student Irene Ammie Cooper (DO '26) was selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the program.

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  • About PCOM South Georgia

    In 2019, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied 125-year history, extended its commitment to the Southeast by establishing PCOM South Georgia. An additional teaching location in Moultrie, Georgia, PCOM South Georgia offers both a full, four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences. PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution that trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. Joining PCOM Georgia in Suwanee in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state, PCOM South Georgia focuses on educating physicians for the region. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 229-668-3110.

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