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Adam Aponte, MD

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Dr. Aponte shares stories about his underprivileged background on a radio show in New York City.

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Adam Aponte

Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
Hofstra North-Shore-LIJ School of Medicine

From NYC Streets to Medical Director, Dean

"Get a good job with the city, pleeeeze," begged Adam Aponte's father when the future physician ran the streets - not a medical department at a hospital. It sounded like good advice at the time.

Driving a bus or being a sanitation worker offered security, an important commodity for underachieving guys like Aponte and his crew of buddies who came across crime, poverty, and partying far more frequently than textbooks and classrooms.

And the East Harlem streets Aponte knew so well weren't exactly a feeding ground for the medical profession.

Medicine as a Career

Fortunately, Aponte dreamed bigger than the advice his father offered and he became the medical director of the North General Diagnostic and Treatment Center at North General Hospital in New York and leads minority student recruitment outreach and retention at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

"My basic message is if I became a doctor, you can do it too," he said. "It takes dedication, hard work, and a passion."

Aponte uses a radio show on a New York City hip-hop music station where he regularly appears on "Medical Mondays with Dr. Aponte." It serves as a platform to share stories about his underprivileged background, wild days as a youth, and experiences in medical school to dispel myths that African American and Hispanic youth can't attain a medical education.

Premedical Advising

It's a story filled with slights doled out by those who didn't think Aponte could make it; however, it was these same people who were responsible for providing him with an education and guidance.

There was a meeting with a junior high school teacher: "I told him I wanted to be a doctor, and he said maybe I shouldn't aspire so high."
And an encounter with his college premedical advisor: "I told her I was going to apply to medical school, and she said 'What makes you think you can go to medical school?' "

Doubts in the Past

Aponte concedes he wasn't a straight-A student, but adds that his detractors didn't take into account the desire of a young man who finished undergrad at City University of New York in three and half years and worked 30 hours a week to pay for school.

There were other setbacks, too. Some serious enough to make Aponte wonder, for just a moment, if his detractors were right.
"I will never forget I got a D in physics my first semester at college and I was crushed," he said. "I thought I would never get into medical school with a D on my record. But now, I also share that I got another D in medical school, an MD"
For Aponte, the doubts are in the past. And he wants young people of color to know they can develop the same belief in themselves if they keep knocking down all barriers before them.
"I'm not a quota benchmark or a statistic," Aponte said "I did the work and I earned it. Nobody is doing me any favors."

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