By Wendy Sarubbi | October 5, 2015 1:18 pm

One of the humanitarians is the son of a former Cleveland Police officer almost killed in the line of duty trying to stop a grocery store robbery. Another is a Ph.D. who went to medical school because she wanted a more patient-centered way to cure. A third, a native of Nepal, worked as a waiter, busboy and dish washer to pay for college and medical school.

These College of Medicine seniors were among the 14 inaugural members of the new UCF Chapman Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which honors students for their humanitarian spirit, clinical skills and service. The society was made possible by a grant from the Jules B. Chapman, M.D. and Annie Lou Chapman Private Foundation that will create three new programs to foster students’ humanism, ethics and professionalism, and also promote students’ wellbeing and positive mental health. The September 19 induction ceremony featured a presentation by College of Medicine faculty member and Gold Honor Society recipient Dr. Michael Bellew, who remained at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital during Hurricane Katrina to care for patients as the storm flooded the hospital, left it without electricity and blew out windows.

Dr. Bellew’s message was about teamwork, persistence and putting patients first, traits exemplified in all the honorees:

Class of 2016 M.D. student Pete Guerra played high school and college baseball, which gave him the opportunity to travel and see locations well beyond his home town of inner city Cleveland. A first generation college student, he said his father, Pedro, who worked for the Cleveland Police Department for 20 years, was “a great example of what it means to care about the community you serve.” Guerra’s medical school application tells the horror he felt as a young boy hearing about the robbery on the news and realizing his father was the officer responding. The elder Guerra, who now trains police in locations like Afghanistan and Haiti, attended the honor society induction and proudly said his son was always focused on helping others. “He was always volunteering, after school, on weekends, all the time, with any group, he was helping,” he said. Pete Guerra hopes to specialize in family practice and immediately after the induction ceremony hopped a plane for residency interviews at the Cleveland Clinic.

Inductee Wendy Carcamo already holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and has done research into immunity responses to Hepatitis C. At the age of 3, a close friend was diagnosed with leukemia and her friend’s doctor explained to Carcamo how the chemotherapy treatments she was witnessing, while tough, would make her friend better. “My experience is a constant reminder of the healing power a smile from a doctor can bring to a child’s life,” she wrote in her medical school application. Carcamo, who hopes to specialize in pediatrics, says children inspire her already hopeful nature. I”I try to look at things on the bright side,” she said. “Life isn’t a fairy tale but things always seem to work out. There is always hope.” She said she was recently reminded of the importance of compassion in medicine during the hospitalization and death of her maternal grandmother. “The physician cared about us as family members and put himself in our shoes,” she said.

Abhishek Roka grew up in Nepal and when his parents came to America seeking a better life, he was responsible for his two younger sisters. He came to the United States as a teenager and worked as a waiter, bus boy and dishwasher to support his family. He heard young college students at the Indian restaurant where he worked talking about their studies and discussions with them inspired him to further his education. He did volunteer work with children in psychiatric treatment and refugees needing medical care. He’s done search at the National Institutes of Health and hopes to specialize in emergency medicine and do global healthcare after graduating from medical school in May. Roka said he was “humbled to be recognized for doing the right thing.” His life and education haven’t been easy, but he says the experiences have taught him persistence, resilience, motivation and never to be afraid to ask for help.

Other Class of 2016 Chapman Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society are:

Deeva Berera

David Cantu

Kelsey Childress

Farah Dosani

Ellisa Engel

David Griffin

Eric Jorge

Kimberly Liekweg

Jennifer Loftus

Grace Logan

Neesha Patel

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