Alumna takes accelerated plan to medical school
This month, Oriana Balascio fresh off earning her master’s degree in biology begins the next leg of her journey to becoming an osteopathic physician — a path kickstarted from an Honors class presentation in her freshman year at Bloomsburg University.
It was five years ago when Balascio discovered another meaningful way to focus her passion for science, serving as an advocate and doctor for those in dire need of and those overlooked for healthcare. Her initial interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in cancer biology had shifted to medicine. After completing Bloomsburg’s 3+2 accelerated B.S./M.S. biology program her next step now continues at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, her top choice.
“My freshman year was a really pivotal time for me,” Balascio says. “My Honors sociology professor had a BU alumna, Bette Grey, come speak to our class about a book she wrote on her experience organizing and opening a free medical clinic in Columbia County for the uninsured, as well as her own personal experience working as a private patient advocate.”
The visiting presenter made an immediate impression on Balascio.
“Hearing the success stories about patients who came in ‘just in time’ and the tragedies of patients who didn’t make it because they were uninsured and felt as though they ‘didn’t deserve medical treatment because other people had it worse’ was really eye-opening for me,” Balascio says. “As I continued to converse with Bette over the last few years about the inequities, disparities, and stigmas in the healthcare system today, it became abundantly clear to me I wanted to follow in her footsteps and advocate for change by going directly to the source — by becoming a physician.”
Balascio says she was drawn to osteopathic medicine due to its more holistic approach than allopathic medicine, i.e. a science-based approach.
“Essentially, osteopathy focuses on treating the patient, not just the disease,” Balascio says. “Allopathy focuses on alleviating the symptoms of the disease. Osteopathic medicine takes a more ‘whole person’ approach that I want to employ with my future patients.”
That’s why West Virginia was her chosen medical school.
“They actually have a not-for-profit clinic right on campus where the medical students can get hands-on experiences seeing real patients during their first two years,” Balascio says. “WVSOM is also ranked among the top D.O. schools for graduating students who pursue primary care, and as somebody who wants to become a pediatrician, that was very appealing.”
Balascio says she’ll I’ll spend her first two years on campus learning in classroom and laboratory settings and then onto clinical rotations in specialties such as general surgery, psychiatry, pediatrics, and OB-GYN at different sites across West Virginia.
“After I pass all of my certification exams and graduate medical school at the end of year four, I’ll go on to complete a three- to four-year residency in my specialty of interest,” Balascio says. “From there, I can apply for fellowships to sub-specialize or settle down and become an attending physician.”
A new eight-year plan is underway, set up perfectly by her time at Bloomsburg.
“The lasting impression Bloomsburg has had on me over the course of the last five years is nothing short of remarkable,” Balascio says. “I’m forever grateful for the opportunities, experiences, connections, and friendships Bloomsburg has provided me with.”
She adds, “On the first day of classes in the fall of 2017, I hit the ground running … and I still haven’t stopped. The lessons I’ve learned during my time at Bloomsburg — inside and outside of the classroom — have allowed me to bloom into the most capable, determined, and best version of myself. As a freshman, I dreamed of being able to take on the world. Now, I know I can. I couldn’t have done it without all of the support I’ve gotten from BU.”