Bios of Salk Scholarship Winners, 2000

Mikhail Paltielov, Rego Park, N.Y.
Queens College

Mikhail Paltielov arrived in New York seven years ago from Tajikistan, where he witnessed a civil war between Islamic fundamentalists and the secular government during the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the age of 12, he and his family were assaulted in an anti-Semitic attack and he spent three months in the hospital, fearing that the head wound might leave him blind. It had a pivotal impact on his life, serving as a catalyst for his family’s flight and making him interested in medicine. Although he recalls “unsanitary conditions, inadequate resources and careless and corrupt medical staff,” one doctor was different. He was caring, respectful even of children and worked hard. “My stay in the hospital taught me that a medical degree in the hands of an unqualified, careless person is a disaster, but in the hands of a compassionate and competent individual is a powerful tool for physical and even emotional, healing,” he said. His pediatrician grandmother’s illness and death in a hospital here, strengthened his resolve to study medicine.

In addition to learning English while in high school, he worked at two part-time jobs. A top student at Queens College, he won the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for Excellence in Math, Science and Engineering, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship for Undergraduate Research, the Kenneth Kupferberg Memorial Scholarship and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Golden Key National Honor Society. In addition, he volunteered in programs for senior citizens at the YMCA, in a hospital emergency room and in a nursing home where he translated for Persian and Russian-speaking patients. Mikhail, who hopes to pursue clinical and basic research in human genetic disorders, has been accepted at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Simon Wu, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brooklyn College

The eldest son in a Chinese family, Simon has had the responsibility of caring for his younger brothers. When his three-year-old brother was hit by a car and hospitalized, it was the compassion of doctors that inspired Simon to be a doctor. As a volunteer in a health clinic on the Lower East Side, where he translated for Cantonese-speaking doctors and patients, his resolve was strengthened. At Brooklyn College he was a Howard Hughes Peer Tutor in chemistry, mathematics, writing and computer science. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and the Golden Key National Honor Society among many other honors. His research interest is the design and analysis of potential drugs using both experimental and computational means. Simon has been accepted at New York University Medical School.

Julie (Yulianna) Russak, Riverdale, N.Y.
Hunter College

Julie has wanted to become a doctor ever since her childhood in the Ukraine, where she came from a medical family – with a neurologist mother and medical school professor grandfather. She came to the United States five years ago, having finished high school with a gold medal. At Hunter College she has been deeply involved in a research project studying neuronal development in the fruit fly Drosophilia. She has also volunteered in New York Hospital’s Emergency Room. Impressed with the number of women physicians and learning that women were almost excluded from the profession for 200 years, she is helping Dr. Joe Wilder, Professor Emeritus at Mount Sinai, to write a book celebrating women in medicine. Multi-talented, she is also translating Russian poems into English. Among her honors at Hunter were election to Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and being named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholar. Julie will attend New York University School of Medicine.

Frank S. K. Appah Jr., Laurelton, N.Y.
City College

This summer, with the support of his mentor and laboratory colleagues, Frank will present a paper on the impact of genetic variation on HIV-I at the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. He expects the Conference will give him the opportunity to gain insight into the international dimensions of collaborative disease research.

This will be his second research-related trip to Africa. In 1997, he received a fellowship to participate in HIV-I related research at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. His experiences there led to his decision to become an MD/Ph.D., so that he can combine his love of research with his desire to interact with patients. At City College, where he received a B.S. degree (1999), he received Latin and Biology honors and was a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) Scholar. He will attend Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Robert Wesolowski, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Hunter College

Robert was born in Warsaw, Poland. His father died before he was born, making conditions extremely difficult for his mother. He lived mostly with his grandmother in a small town in eastern Poland. After he graduated from high school in 1993, Robert and his mother immigrated to the U.S. Both his experiences in Poland, where his grandmother was treated for arthritis, and here, where his stepfather was treated for atherosclerosis – and disease from which he died – led to his intense interest in clinical medicine.

Robert first attended Kingsborough Community College, where he maintained a strong academic record. At Kingsborough, he also worked part-time, yet became a Peer Advisor and tutored students in math and biology. He transferred to Hunter, where he received a B.S. degree in biology in January. Honors/Awards include: Phi Beta Kappa, Dean’s List, and Golden and Silver awards for student activity. He will attend the SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn.

Carlos Casulo, Elmhurst, N.Y.
Hunter College

Carlo Casulo was born here but lived the first three years of his life in the Dominican Republic. His mother was a single woman who needed time to establish herself in this country, and after she stabilized her situation Carlo joined her here his early schooling in the US. He returned to the Dominican Republic after completing eighth grade and attended high school there. At that time, he thought that he would like to train to be an Olympic runner. Despite his efforts to qualify as a runner, his height was a limiting factor, and he came to realize that he would never be fast enough to compete at that level in the sport. He returned to the US and finished high school in Brooklyn and subsequently enrolled at Hunter College.

At Hunter, Carlo studied in the Enrichment Program at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeon’s, and participated in Hunter’s federally-funded Minority Biomedical Research Scholars and Minority Access to Research Careers Programs.

Carlo’s observations of his aunt Elizabeth and her dedication to the practice of medicine were important in forming his desire to become a physician. His aunt practiced oncology in Dominican Republic and played an important role in making people aware of failings of the health care system. Her dedication to her patients and lack of resources to help them inspired public action for more care for the terminally ill. Carlo regards her as a heroine. He will attend Harvard Medical School.

Stanley Josue, Hollis, N.Y.
York College

Stanley came to the U.S. from the Philippines, where access to modern medicine was generally limited to sporadic free services provided by the government. Consequently, he knew too many people who succumbed to diseases that were easily treatable and preventable. His drive to be a medical professional stems from these experiences.

Especially vivid in his memory is the time his brother Karl became quite ill. In a country where most could not afford basic medical services, people would turn to faith healers and witch doctors. Stanley remembers Karl standing in the middle of a metal drum while incense sticks and leaves burned around him. A witch doctor danced around him. Karl’s condition only got worse. Eventually, Karl was diagnosed with typhoid bacterial infection that was successfully treated. Though grateful for the outcome, Stanley was distressed that anyone could have easily died from a relatively treatable disease.

Stanley and his family emigrated to the United States several years later. At the age of 14, in a now single-parent family, he had to grow up very quickly, as his mother worked 12 to 16 hour shifts as a housekeeper and a baby-sitter. In order to supplement his mother’s income, Stanley secured a full-time job soon after completing his high school education, working as a shipping clerk for a local refrigerant gas distributor. Consequently, he wasn’t able to continue his education from high school directly into college.

Determined to pursue a bachelor of science degree “with whatever financial resources I could muster,” Stanley enrolled at York College. Though he held one and sometimes two part-time jobs to put himself through school, he excelled in his studies. He studied “between attending classes and folding and selling children’s clothing at night.” At York, he was inducted into the Liberal Arts Honor Society; won a CUNY Student Leadership Award; an Academic Distinction Award in Chemistry, and a Sigma XI Award for Excellence in Scientific Research. Stanley will attend the New York University School of Medicine.

Cristian Castro, New York, NY
City College

Christian Castro grew up in Noriega, an isolated village in the Dominican Republic. Every day, the village experienced the consequences of not having a physician nearby. The closest doctor was more than an hour away by horse, and was summoned only in emergency cases or when an individual’s prognosis was grim. The situation affect Christian personally when his father had a stroke; he died during the long trip to the hospital. Observing preventable tragedies motivated Christian, to one day become a physician, and provide care in undeserved communities.

Christian immigrated to New York to live with his mother soon after graduating from high school. In order to help pay for household expenses, he worked more than 40 hours a week by the time he was a sophomore at City College, yet maintained a high academic standing.

To obtain first-hand research experience, he volunteered and was accepted as an undergraduate researcher for the Biomedical Research Foundation, sponsored at City College by the National Institutes of Health. He has given seminars and lectures about his work at City College and at the Biomedical Symposium in New York. He also volunteered at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, working in the children’s emergency room, interpreting, transporting patients and talking and playing with sick children.

At City College, he was on the Dean’s List five times; was elected to the Golden Key National Honor Society, received a Volunteer Service Award from the United Hospital Fund. He will graduate on June 2nd with honors in biochemistry. Christian will attend the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Honorary Winners

Georgia Anyatonwu, New York, NY
City College

Georgia’s became interested in science while in high school in Nigeria, and as an undergraduate at City College, where she was a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) Scholar in the Biomedical Research Program. For the past two years she has been involved in research in the areas of genetics and molecular biology.

Honors/Awards include the Golden Key Honor Society; National Dean’s List and a General Motors Scholarship. Georgia, who will receive a B.S. degree in biochemistry at City College’s commencement on June 2nd, plans to pursue a Ph.D in pharmacology at Yale University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Sylvan Roger Maginley, New York, NY
City College

In his native Antigua, Sylvan completed rigorous science studies in high school – the first step toward fulfilling his lifelong interest in medicine. Here, he first attended Borough of Manhattan Community College, maintaining an ‘A’ average. He subsequently transferred to City College, where he became a MARC Scholar.

In his senior year, Sylvan was accepted by the Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program at Harvard Medical School – an experience that reinforced his decision pursue a career in medicine. As an undergraduate he was president of the BioScience Club; an editor with the Journal of Student Research and a volunteer mentor for freshmen science students. He will attend Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Edward Ruperto, Flushing, Queens
Queens College

Edward attributes his interest in medicine to many factors, among them his experiences while serving for four years in the Coast Guard. There were many occasions where he was directly involved in search and rescue operations. He recalls that “although it was very disheartening when we were not able to save someone, it was outweighed by the indescribable feeling we experienced when we were able to make a difference, when a total stranger hugs you and tells you he owes his life to you.”

At Queens College, Edward participated in cancer research, first in partial fulfillment of the requirements for honors in the Mathematical and Natural sciences, and more recently as a recipient of a summer scholarship from the Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Engineering and Mathematics. He will attend the Yale University School of Medicine.

Kalman A. Friedman, Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn College

The screech of tires, a deadly second of silence, and than a horrific crash involving three cars. There was little the crowd of onlookers could do, but Kalman stepped forward to try to comfort the injured. That experience led him to his first CPR and First Aid course, and to volunteering at various clinical settings.

At Coney Island Hospital, he established the Volunteer Patient Representative Program in the Emergency Room. Kalman and other volunteers were the patients’ voice and interpreter of unfamiliarly medical language. For a time, he was a research assistant at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he took part in laboratory research, worked on articles for publication, and went on rounds in the hospital and its clinics.

Kalman, who is a state-licensed Emergency Medical Technician, won a number of awards at Brooklyn College. A year ago he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received the Government Achievement Award. His extra-curricular activities included serving on the college’s Emergency Medical Squad and as science/medical editor of Nigh Call, a student newspaper. He will attend NYU School of Medicine.

Irina Erlikh, Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn College

In her native Ukraine, Irina attended Medical Secondary School and graduated in 1991. Armed with a nursing diploma, she began working immediately after graduation in the Coronary Care Unity in the Cardiology Department at a municipal hospital. Her work there intensified her desire to become a doctor.

The political and economic deterioration in her country prompted Irina and her family to immigrate to the U.S. Upon arriving in New York she and her husband began to learn English to that they could find jobs and return to school. The couple enrolled at Brooklyn College. Both held part-time jobs while pursuing their studies.

At college, she was involved in a research project at the Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center and volunteered in the Adult Emergency Services Unit at Bellevue Hospital. Irina, who was listed in the 1997-98 edition of the National Dean’s List, received a B.A. degree a year ago. She will attend the SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse.

The City University of New York