Milestones on the Road to Medical School

Sherine Crawford hopes her highly-regarded research helps her to eventually become a pediatrician.
Sherine Crawford's dream of becoming a doctor began years ago as she watched her younger sister struggle with a congenital heart defect.

"Shauna couldn't play and run around like other children," says Crawford, who came to the U.S. from Jamica nine years ago. "She couldn't do any strenuous activities. And I couldn't do anything to help her."

Although Crawford's mother brought her sister to America for better health care, Shauna died in 2001.

But the memories of her sister stayed with her as Crawford pushed hard to pursue her dream.

In June, she will reach a milestone when she graduates from Medgar Evers College with a bachelor's degree in biology. She will take the Medical College Admission Test in the summer. Crawford hopes to become a pediatrician.

"I love children," says Crawford, who has two daughters, ages four and nine. Crawford's success, like that of many students at The City University of New York, did not happen along a predictable path. She was a young mother when she enrolled in Medgar Evers in 2002. She ran out of money and quit after one semester. For the next five years, she worked odd jobs, mainly tutoring math, baby sitting and cashiering at a supermarket. Along the way, she got married and had her second daughter. By 2007, she finally saved up enough to go back to college.

"Medgar Evers is like a home away from home," she says. "You don't need an appointment to see your professors and they know you by name. It's a friendly environment."

Biology professors Edward Catapane and Margaret Carroll recruited her to assist with their research. Under their watchful eye, Crawford studied the toxic effects of manganese on mitochondrial respiration in Crassostrea virginica, a species of oyster. The research helped Crawford to "gain an understanding of the mechanism of the action of manganese in causing manganism, a condition similar to Parkinson's disease," she says.

"We are all so very proud of Sherine and her many accomplishments," says Carroll. "She is one of the most talented and motivated students I have ever met. Her research involved a technically difficult project that she mastered very quickly and her work on manganese toxicity on mitochondrial respiration has been highly regarded at many national conferences."

Crawford has received many awards, including the 2009 Pfizer Undergraduate Student Travel Award presented by the Society of Toxicology. Only five students win each year, and Crawford is only the second from Medgar Evers.

"To do the work and actually win the award means a lot to me," Crawford says. "My mentors suggested that being a researcher is an option in case medical school doesn't work out."

Crawford also received the Travel Award from the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology and the National Shellfish Association. She's the recipient of the Minority Access Inc.'s National Student Role Model Award and the Gehring Honorable Mention Award for 2010.

Crawford, who has a 3.8 GPA, is also active on campus. She's a member of the Science Association and the Science Student Enrichment Program. She tutors biology and chemistry, and she's the captain of the college's tennis team.

But none of this would be possible if she didn't have the support of her mother, Ivel, and sister Christine, a freshman at Medgar Evers. "They're part of my success," says Crawford. "They're my mentors, and they're proud of my accomplishments. They encourage me to look ahead and aspire to do more."