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Meet one of the students graduating from Nova Southeastern's first class of MDs

Samantha Marazita is one of 46 students who will graduate as part of the first class of Nova Southeastern University's new MD program.
Samantha Marazita
Samantha Marazita is one of 46 students who will graduate as part of the first class of Nova Southeastern University's new MD program.

After four years of anatomy, rounds and rotations – and many late-night study sessions – the first class from Nova Southeastern University’s College of Allopathic Medicine is graduating on Friday. Forty-six students will officially be awarded their MD degrees from the new program.

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Plenty of kids know from a young age they want to be a doctor. Samantha Marazita was not that kid. Growing up in a family of casino workers in Reno, Nevada, Marazita said for a while she didn’t even aspire to graduate from high school.

“I never thought that I would be that type of person that could go to med school. Or that that was even possible for people like … like us,” she said. “We're working class. We lived in a mobile home park.”

Marazita says it was an English teacher who helped her realize that going to college was an option for her. She went on to become a first-generation college grad and worked in film, photography and hospitality.

It wasn’t until she had grown up and started earning a living that Marazita said she realized her passion for healing people.

“I love people's stories. I mean, I can't get enough of learning about a human being,” Marazita said. “So it wasn't until I was already financially stable and adult and established in life, where I was able to think like, oh, whoa, my passion and the things I'm interested in, people's stories, understanding science, understanding how diseases work … that's a doctor.”

So she went back to school to earn two more bachelor’s degrees, in chemistry and biology, and then started medical school at 33. She found her calling in internal medicine.

“Internal medicine, for me, is everything,” she said. “I couldn't imagine doing anything but internal medicine. It's just, it's so cool. It's how the body works. It's everything connected. All the big body systems.”

As a first-generation graduate, Marazita said she sometimes feels like she has a foot in two worlds — the world of med school, surrounded by a group of studious high achievers, many of them a decade younger than she is, and the world of her family.

It's not always been easy. But Marazita said she never loses sight of the opportunity her education is affording her.

"Our job is to learn. And to me, maybe it's because of how I grew up, to me, that's a privilege. It does have its stresses because it's challenging and you should be a little stressed out. But to me, it just seems like the ultimate gift to be able to sit and be able to learn," she said. "Not a lot of people in the world get that opportunity."

Marazita said she’s proud to be a part of NSU’s inaugural MD class. The university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine was established in 1981 and will be granting DO degrees to 224 students on Friday.

Being part of the first class, Marazita said she and the other students were able to create a culture of collaboration.

“We're creating this community. We're paving the roads. We're doing the whole thing. And we're doing it together,” she said. “And when I look back on the past four years, that is the big theme of it all. Is how much we all helped each other. How much of a community and a family we were.”

School officials say the new doctors will help meet a critical need for physicians in Florida and across the country. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the U.S. could see a shortage of between 17,800 to 48,000 primary care doctors by 2034.

“We’ve come a long way in four years, and I couldn’t be prouder of what our students, faculty and staff have accomplished,” said Johannes Vieweg, the founding dean of NSU’s MD program. “We only get one chance to have the first-ever graduation ceremony, and I’m excited to see our students follow their dreams and become doctors.”

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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