Assisting the assistant

Teresa Zamor is experiencing a lot of firsts.

She’s a first-generation American — her father hailing from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and her mother from Kingston, Jamaica. She recently attended her first national conference hosted by the American Academy of Physician Assistants in San Antonio, Texas. But perhaps the biggest “first” – she just finished her first-year as a physician assistant student at her first-choice school: The University of Florida.

Teresa Zamor
Teresa Zamor

That last first might not have happened without the help of scholarships.

In 2008, Teresa’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and became physically unable to work full-time. She was concerned about the looming financial burden.

“I initially thought I would have to go to my second choice college for my undergraduate studies because they offered me a scholarship,” Teresa said. “But, I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a few outside scholarships that allowed me to go to UF.”

Teresa came to Gainesville from Cape Coral, Fla., graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s of health science at UF.

Knowing she would be faced with a similar dilemma, Teresa considered delaying her application to PA school for a year so that she could work and save money. After a lot of encouragement from her parents, she applied anyway. Her risk was rewarded, as she was named a Ruth and Gerry Hartman Scholarship recipient upon admission.

“The Hartman scholarship fills the gaps of living expenses that remain after federal loans are disbursed,” she said. “It allows me to maintain some level of independence as my parents help my brother pursue his undergraduate degree.”

There are nearly 300 scholarships and fellowships awarded each year to students in the six health science center colleges. Support from these awards affords students like Teresa opportunities they did not think were possible.

“Because of this scholarship, I was able to travel to Texas and learn about advances in evidence-based medicine, network with potential employers and draw inspiration from other PAs who are redefining the role in medicine,” Teresa said.

Now in her second year of the program, Teresa can focus her studies on addressing health disparities. She hopes to improve access and provide quality health care to help mitigate the challenges many face for any given diagnosis.

“My first thoughts when I received this scholarship were, ‘This validates all of my hard work and will ease some of my financial burden,’” she said. “I’m thankful for the financial means to take advantage of opportunities I otherwise would not have been able to pursue.”

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