Eight Top CUNY Students Who Overcame Economic Hardship and Language Barriers To Receive Salk Medical Scholarships

A native of Tajikistan who survived the brutal civil war there between Islamic fundamentalists and the secular government during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a City College graduate who has participated in HIV-1 related research in Uganda were among eight outstanding City University of New York students awarded Jonas E. Salk Scholarships today to study medicine. Five others were named honorary winners.

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Dr. Louise Mirrer, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, presented the awards, medical diagnostic kits and medical reference books to the winners in ceremonies held at Hunter College.

Other speakers include Nilda Soto Ruiz, a CUNY trustee; Dr. Arnold Melman, Professor/Chairman, Department of Urology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, representing the Salk Society; Lolita Wood-Hill, Deputy Director/Pre-Medical Advisor, Health Professions Advisory Committee, the Division of Science at City College, and Dr. Max Gomez, health correspondent for WNBC-TV.

The scholarships are named for Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the discoverer of the polio vaccine, who graduated from City College in 1934. They carry a $1,000 a year stipend toward medical school tuition. When Dr. Salk was offered a ticker tape parade by New York City in 1955 in honor of his discovery, he asked that the money be used instead for scholarships. CUNY students who have received the scholarships have gone on to leadership positions in medical research and medical practice.

Mikhail Paltielov, 21, of Rego Park, arrived in New York seven years ago from Tajikistan, where at the age of 12, he and his family were assaulted in an anti-Semitic attack. He spent three months in a hospital, fearing that a head wound would leave him blind. It had a pivotal impact on his life, serving as the motivation for his family’s flight and his interest in medicine.

In addition to learning English while attending Forest Hills High School, he worked at two part-time jobs. A top student at Queens College, he will receive a bachelor’s degree at the college’s commencement exercises on June 7th.

Mikhail, who hopes to pursue clinical and basic research in human genetic disorders, will attend the John Hopkins School of Medicine. He lives in Rego Park, Queens.

In 1997, Frank S.K. Appah, Jr., of Laurelton, a graduate (1999) of City College, received a fellowship to participate in HIV-1 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.

This summer, Frank, who is 24, will present a paper on the impact of genetic variation on HIV-1 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.

At City College, where he won Latin and Biology honors, Frank was a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) Scholar. He will attend Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He lives in Laurelton, Queens.

Julie (Yulianna)Russak has wanted to become a doctor ever since her childhood in Ukraine, where she came from a medical family – a neurologist mother and medical school professor grandfather.

Julie, 24, came to the U.S. five years ago. While at Hunter College (she graduated in January of this year), she was involved in research programs, and also found time to volunteer in New York Hospital’s emergency room.

A multi-talented young woman, she is translating Russian poems by Marina Tsvetaeva into English, and helping Dr. Joe Wilder, Professor Emeritus at Mount Sinai, to write a book celebrating women in medicine. Julie, who will attend New York University’s School of Medicine, lives in Riverdale.

The other winners, their colleges and the medical schools they will attend are Simon Wu, 24, of Brooklyn, Brooklyn College, NYU School of Medicine; Robert Wesolowski, 26, of Brooklyn, Hunter College, SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn; Carlo Casulo, 21, of Elmhurst, Queens, Hunter College, Harvard Medical School; Stanley Josue, 25, of Hollis, Queens, York College, NYU School of Medicine, and Cristian Castro, 24, of Manhattan, City College, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The honorary winners are Georgia Anyatonwu, 22, of Manhattan, City College, Yale University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Sylvan Roger Maginley, 26, of Manhattan, City College, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Kalman Friedman, 22, of Brooklyn, Brooklyn College, NYU Medical School; Irina Erlikh of Brooklyn, Brooklyn College, SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse, and Edwart Ruperto, 28, of Flushing, Queens, Queens College, Yale University School of Medicine.

The scholars were chosen because of their outstanding academic records, the quality of their research projects, and their volunteer activities.