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Boston Globe details UMMS student Steven Em’s emotional Match Day

First-generation college graduate pays tribute to parents’ brave journey past Cambodian genocide

UMass Medical School Communications

March 18, 2019
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Steven Em, envelope in hand, awaits news about his residency at Match Day on March 15. 

In an emotional, front-page Boston Globe column detailing School of Medicine student Steven Em’s journey to Match Day at UMass Medical School, writer Tom Farragher describes the horror his parents endured in the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the effect it has had on their son.

“A lot of what I do is for my parents,’’ Em, SOM ’19, told Farragher in the March 16 edition of the Globe. Kosal Em and Veth Huorn fled Cambodia in the 1970s after losing most of their family members to the Khmer Rouge regime, who executed nearly 2 million people. After each settled in Revere, the teenagers met, got married and raised their two sons in a modest apartment.

Em obtained his undergrad degree from UMass Amherst, but initially was not successful at getting into medical school. He then joined the inaugural class of the Health Sciences Preparatory Program at UMMS, run by Deborah Harmon-Hines, PhD, and designed to help students from underrepresented groups or those from disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for medical school.

“There’s no direct line to medical school,’’ Dr. Harmon Hines, professor emeritus of radiology, said in the Globe. “And that’s what our program provided. It provided an alternative route to get into medical school. This is for students who have the ability but they don’t understand the system of applying to medical school.”

On Friday, Em matched to a residency at New York Medical College at Metropolitan Hospital Center of New York, which he will begin after graduation in June.

“You guys went through something really tough and you made it out,” said Em, to his parents, in the Globe. “And it’s not for naught. You managed to get out. And now your son is making the absolute best of what you gave him.’’

Chancellor Michael F. Collins said it is important at UMMS that all learners are given the tools they need to succeed, such as the Health Sciences Prep Program.

“You look at Steven, living in a one-room house with his mom and dad and now in an attic. I want to make sure students like that feel comfortable in our classes; that they don’t feel like they don’t have enough money. If they need a little something extra, we take care of that little something extra so that there’s not any feeling that they’re not a full member.’’

Read the full story at: Boston Globe: From the Killing Fields to the healing arts