Osteopathic Medicine Student Committed to Expanding Healthcare Accessibility to Non-English Speaking Patients
Richard Gaia is currently enrolled in the Osteopathic Medicine Program at Seton Hill University. This program, a partnership with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), provides Seton Hill pre-med students the opportunity to move straight into medical school after completing their undergraduate work. Richard recently reflected on his experience at Seton Hill and his intentions to serve diverse communities after graduation.
What made you decide to come to Seton Hill?
My mom went to Seton Hill and she had a very positive experience, so I decided to read about it and apply. I like language and art, and I believe that medicine is an art. I think there needs to be more of a rapport between physicians and patients, too. I often hear about problems doctors talk about in the community, but it’s my goal to be involved in their solutions. I want to be able to make a positive impact on the community’s health beyond even my individual practice.
Why did you choose to enroll in the LECOM Osteopathic Medicine program?
It worked with my interests and aligned with my worldview in a concrete way. It is definitely a place where I can learn more. After interviewing for LECOM, I found the liberal arts curriculum was flexible. I would be able to travel abroad and be able to pursue linguistics and biology.
What has your experience at Seton Hill been like so far?
I’ve had many great professors that have taught me so much. One thing especially that I look for in professors is when they go beyond the curriculum a little bit more. You can talk to them about theories, cutting-edge technologies, etc. Dr. Cooper-Morgan is a professor I can always talk to about biochemistry, and she’ll discuss new technology and research in that field. The professors I’ve had motivate you to want to study subjects in an interdisciplinary way and tie in part of the liberal arts curriculum.
"I’ve had many great professors that have taught me so much. One thing especially that I look for in professors is when they go beyond the curriculum a little bit more. You can talk to them about theories, cutting-edge technologies, etc."
I heard you went on the Study Abroad trip to Spain. Could you tell me more about your experience there?
It was my dream since seventh grade to go to Spain. Dr. Reyna and Dr. McMahon were phenomenal guides. I could ask them about anything and they’d know the history of it. It was really cool to increase my fluency in Spanish. I learned a lot about the differences between European and American cultures. It was very immersive and eye-opening.
What are your future career plans after completing your education at Seton Hill and LECOM?
I would like to open my own practice. I’ve been learning more about the philosophy of what a doctor’s role is in their community. Ideally, I’d like to be able to establish educational programs and be able to fund language programs, increase healthcare awareness, etc. I want to implement linguistics into my studies and work. As a physician, this will help me to expand my care to people who are non-English speaking. I’m studying Arabic next semester and will be continuing my study of the language independently in order to provide future care and cross culture bridges with Arabic speakers who may not be well-versed in English. I plan to employ my backgrounds of other languages including Spanish, Italian, and French as well. Expanding care is my goal as a physician.
What would you like to share about the LECOM Osteopathic Medicine Program at Seton Hill with people who are considering applying?
I would recommend the program. It is flexible. The Early Acceptance Program gives you a sense of security and confidence in knowing you have a spot secured with LECOM for further studies. There is a work-life and academic-life balance where you can pursue your interests while also focusing on your career. This is helpful when you begin discovering options - all the different minors, taking a Study Abroad trip, and even having a job. You also have a community of other students who can help with any questions you may have. There’s definitely a strong sense of community in LECOM at Seton Hill.