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Medical student Charles Nessralla honored as one of ‘29 Who Shine’

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

May 02, 2018
  Charles (C.J.) Nessralla, SOM ’18
  Charles “C.J.” Nessralla

School of Medicine student Charles “C.J.” Nessralla has been named one of the “29 Who Shine” in the commonwealth’s public higher education system. Each Massachusetts community college, state university and UMass campus picks one student annually to receive the award, based on his or her exceptional commitment to community service and outstanding academic achievement. Gov. Charlie Baker and Massachusetts higher education officials will honor Nessralla and his peers at a State House ceremony on Friday, May 4.

“C.J. has accomplished in his young life thus far what most of us will not do in a lifetime, and he has done it with humility and ease,” said Sonia Chimienti, MD, associate professor of medicine, associate dean for student affairs and vice provost for student life and enrollment. “He has made a difference in tangible ways to young teens; he has worked to bring clean water to villagers in Nigeria; he has empowered Worcester high school students to reach for the stars and achieve their full potential; and he has cared for his patients in a meaningful and deeply supportive way; all while being one of the top students in his graduating class.”

While still a teenager himself, Nessralla became the Big Brother to a child growing up in a dangerous Boston housing project, helping the boy succeed in school while avoiding the pitfalls of gangs in his neighborhood. Nessralla worked hard to support and mentor his young charge, and ultimately was appointed legal guardian with the blessing of the boy’s mother. In 2014, the Boston Globe featured their story.

Nessralla has excelled academically while balancing the challenges of being a parent to a teenager. He was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, and inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society in recognition of his caring and compassion.

He credits his School of Medicine Learning Community mentor William (Jerry) Durbin, MD, professor of pediatrics, for helping him succeed in medical school.

“Dr. Durbin has been there to guide me through every aspect of medical school and has consistently provided me with invaluable advice and support,” said Nessralla. “He is also a phenomenal teacher who truly leads by example. The love and compassion he has for his patients is contagious and he inspires everyone around him to view their patients in the same light.”

Beyond maintaining academic excellence and his family commitments, Nessralla has served as director of operations for a clean water initiative in Nigeria; helped develop a partnership for a global health immersion experience between UMMS and the UNAN Medical School in Nicaragua; participated in medical missions to the Dominican Republic; participated in the Best Buddies program; and tutored North High students in the Worcester Pipeline Collaborative and UMass undergraduates in the BaccMD program.

Following graduation from UMass Medical School in June, Nessralla will begin residency training in orthopedic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. His adopted son is attending Assumption College on a full scholarship.

Related story on UMassMedNow:
UMass Medical School inducts 21 students into Gold Humanism Honor Society