Matthew Guariglia wasn’t alone in his desire to attend medical school and become a doctor. Many of his classmates at Wayne Hills High School shared the same dream, but rather than wait to gain real hospital experience and networking opportunities, Guariglia was eager to get started.
As a high school junior, Guariglia started the D.O. Explorer Club to introduce fellow aspiring doctors to the medical profession through field trips to medical centers and presentations by doctors and healthcare paraprofessionals.
“I thought it would be a good way to expose my classmates to the medical field,” Guariglia says. “It was nice because you really don’t know what it’s like until you actually visit a hospital or medical school and introduce yourself to people who do it for a living. I wanted my classmates to network and that can give them a real advantage.”
This fall, Guariglia will begin his first semester at Rutgers University–Camden. He is enrolled in the BA/DO program, a joint venture between Rutgers–Camden the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine. Students enrolled in the program complete a three-year curriculum at Rutgers–Camden as biology majors before moving on to study for four years in medical school. They graduate from Rutgers–Camden with a bachelor’s degree after completing their first year of medical school.
“At a young age, I wanted to be a doctor,” says Guariglia, who is a certified emergency medical technician and whose father and grandfather are doctors. “What’s nice about the BA/DO program is that it puts you on track to achieve that goal, so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to have a direct path to medical school.”
Thanks to his vision in high school, Guariglia started to lay the groundwork for a successful medical career long before he was accepted into the BA/DO program. Through the D.O. Explorer Club, he and his classmates toured hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and family practices, and even got a chance to speak with health care professionals.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a day spent with a nurse, physician, or surgeon is that times one hundred,” Guariglia says. “The club provided these experiences and will continue to do so.”
Even though Guariglia has moved on to college, the Wayne, Passaic County, resident says he’ll still have a hand in helping to organize events for the club, which will be run by his brother, Joseph, a sophomore at Wayne Hills High School. Meanwhile, the Rutgers–Camden freshman is eager to “scrub in” to the Rutgers–Camden BA/DO program.
“I had the chance to meet some medical school students throughout the process of applying to this program, and I saw an anatomy lab and talked to other BA/DO students who told me to work hard and put in the time and effort to succeed,” Guariglia explains. “It reinforced that interacting with patients and helping to put a smile on a patient’s face is most important.”
In addition to academic work, Rutgers–Camden students also know the importance of giving back to the community and for Guariglia, being accepted to Rutgers–Camden’s Civic Scholars program is a high honor. Guariglia is one of 15 incoming freshman to become Civic Scholars this fall. The competitive program is a community service scholarship opportunity that embodies Rutgers–Camden’s commitment to meaningful student civic engagement in Camden.
“It promotes leadership in the community and that’s very exciting for me,” Guariglia says. “It goes hand-in-hand with my medical school goals in that I can start volunteering and educating people about leading a healthy lifestyle.”
Since its inception in 2011, the Civic Scholars program has partnered with more than 40 organizations in Camden on a wide variety of projects and initiatives, including community building, healthcare, youth program enrichment, college access, and urban environmental justice.
Even with a head start on his medical career, Guariglia is excited for what lies ahead.
“The guidance, encouragement, and reassurance I have received as an incoming freshman has been tremendous. I feel at home at Rutgers–Camden already.”