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Aspiring Physician Aims High


Aspiring Physician Aims High

Stephanie Szempruch credits the student-run Laennec Society with supporting her as she pursued a double major in history and biology.

Photo by Bill Denison

By Rachel Buttner

Take a look inside Stephanie Szempruch’s backpack, and you might find a copy of the Bill of Rights tucked between texts on physiology and animal behavior. Szempruch, a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior, is graduating with a degree in history and biology.

“I enjoyed being a double major, especially since I chose two fairly unrelated topics. Both are unique in their own ways,” she said. “History is a nice break from the science classes.”

A nice break is something Szempruch won’t have for quite a while.

One week after receiving her diploma, she will take the next big step on a career path she’s long envisioned. Szempruch, who was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force earlier this year, will begin officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. After completing the month-long program, she’ll return to New York to attend Stony Brook University School of Medicine as a recipient of the Air Force’s Health Professions Scholarship.

The prestigious award will cover her tuition, fees and textbooks for all four years of medical school, and provide her with a monthly stipend for living expenses—in exchange for four years of active duty in the Air Force once she earns her medical degree and completes a residency program in a specialty (“I’m leaning toward pediatrics,” she said).

The military lifestyle is familiar and welcomed by Szempruch. Her father served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, taking the family across the country and around the world—from Alabama to California to Thailand. The periodic moves were difficult for Szempruch, but she has come to appreciate the value of her upbringing.

“I’ve realized what a privilege it was to travel all over the world and experience different cultures,” she said. “When I realized I’d get to have that experience again and not have a debt for medical school, [the decision to join the military] was a no-brainer.”

Szempruch chose Fordham for its pre-med program and knew from the get-go that she wanted to major in biology. But it wasn’t until the fall semester of her junior year, when she enrolled in a course on the Bill of Rights, taught by Saul Cornell, Ph.D., the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, that she decided to add a second major.

“It is one of the great pleasures of teaching at a place like Fordham to encounter students like Stephanie,” Cornell said. She’s “bright, articulate, down-to-earth, diligent and genuinely committed to making the world a better place for everyone.”

Balancing the demands of two unrelated majors wasn’t overwhelming, Szempruch said. As a student in the pre-health professions program, she took full advantage of the student-run Laennec Society, a “wonderful support system.”

She also found the time to work with the Office of Undergraduate Admission’s Rose Hill Society. As chair of the society’s Outreach Ambassador Board, she hosted online chats with prospective students and helped organize campus tours and other events.

“She is so dedicated and passionate when it comes to her volunteer work with the office,” said Vincent Perito, an admission counselor at Fordham. “With the diverse array of talents she has, from her science skills to her people skills, I cannot wait to see what Stephanie is going to achieve.”


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