Dr. Josué Alejandro Ocasio Tapia, a UMHS Class of 2019 graduate, was pleased to learn he would be entering into an Internal Medicine residency at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) University District Hospital this summer. Dr. Ocasio Tapia is among many successful UMHS grads who have matched in their Puerto Rican homeland.
The UMHS Endeavour caught up with Dr. Ocasio Tapia as he entered residency.
Dr. Ocasio Tapia grew up in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. He admits he did not always want to be a doctor. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting and a minor in management from the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo campus.
“Throughout my life, I discovered I had a passion to serve others, since early in adolescence I participated in community activities mainly for the special education department for elementary school in the town of Manatí, as well as visiting nursing homes during Christmas time to bring music, food, supplies and family activities for the residents,” he said.
During his second year of college, he was hired to work at the Dr. Karl Lang Cardiopulmonary Institute as an administrative assistant. While working there he learned how medicine gives one the privilege and responsibility to help others. “My passion for medicine started to grow,” he said.
Dr. Josué Alejandro Ocasio Tapia (Class of 2019) obtained an Internal Medicine residency at UPR University District Hospital in Puerto Rico. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ocasio Tapia
Many factors convinced Dr. Ocasio Tapia to choose UMHS over other Caribbean medical schools. What helped him decide on going to UMHS as opposed to other med schools? In addition to the high Step 1 pass rate at UMHS, he found a conference given by Earl Mainer, UMHS Senior Associate Director of Admissions for the Southeast and Puerto Rico, especially informative and inspiring.
“When I went to the conference held by Earl here on the island, I learned about all the resources they offer to help us reach our degree, how they make the moving process and adaptation easier and smoother for us, and the fact that they don’t see you as an MCAT score or GPA; UMHS looks at your potential and passion to become a doctor and put everything in place to guide you throughout the process. This helped me decide on going to UMHS,” he said.
Dr. Ocasio Tapia found Mr. Mainer helpful throughout his years of medical school at UMHS.
“I felt inspired from the moment Earl Mainer called me to notify me of my acceptance into the EBS program until the last day of clinical rotations,” he said.
He also has high praise for the professors and professionals he worked with in basic sciences and also clinical rotations. “It is hard to pick one professor or clinical rotation doctor; every one of them made this journey achievable and transmitted their knowledge in such a way that awakens your desire to emulate them.”
How UMHS Gave Him an Edge to Succeed
Dr. Ocasio Tapia also believes attending UMHS has given him an extra edge he will use in both residency and throughout his career because he has learned how to adapt to new situations and the ever-changing world of medicine.
“Going to a Caribbean medical school helped me develop tools that I will definitely find useful during my residency,” he said. “For example, medicine is a dynamic discipline that is constantly changing and doctors need to learn, relearn and adapt to it, from integrating new ways to treat a particular disease to adapting to different working environments and staff throughout their career and working as a team. Attending a Caribbean medical school helped me develop these important tools since day one in St. Kitts, when you leave your country, family and friends to start developing your network of new friends. And when you think you are settled, clinical rotations begin and now you are exposed to new staff, medical students and doctors, moving to another place, and throughout that journey I have overcome my language barrier, developed self-confidence, learned how to adapt to a new lifestyle filled with new experiences and challenges that have helped me to become a better person, and now a doctor in medicine.”
UMHS helped him strengthen his confidence, perseverance and dedication, three things vital to becoming a successful doctor. In addition, the outstanding clinical rotations at hospitals throughout the USA gave him the exposure and contacts necessary for the residency Match program.
He has many goals for residency, including to “learn throughout the exposure, develop a good clinical knowledge to catch early diseases without depending on labs or studies, mastering the management of different diseases to help as many patients as the life allows me, and achieve a fellowship in Cardiology.”
Advice on Matching in Puerto Rico
Dr. Ocasio Tapia is pleased to be starting his Internal Medical residency at UPR University District Hospital.
“I am very grateful that I got accepted into this program and looking forward to learn as I serve my patients,” he said.
He became interested in Internal Medicine for numerous reasons.
“I chose Internal Medicine because it gives you the privilege of learning how to manage a broad spectrum of diseases with a multi-systemic approach, knowing every system of the body and how it works in such coordination and harmony to achieve a specific function. Most important, it gives you the opportunity and privilege of knowing your patients, not just for a brief encounter, but throughout their life as you help them to take care of their health as a team.”
What interests him the most about Internal Medicine? “The versatility of this specialty, as you can stay as a primary Internal Medicine doctor or you can pursue a sub-specialty. My goal is to become a cardiologist.”
Dr. Ocasio Tapia wanted to return to Puerto Rico, his home, to help make a difference.
“Besides the great education and excellent residency programs the island has to offer, my goal has always been to serve here in Puerto Rico,” he said. “This is not a fixed plan; there is no way to predict where am I going to be in the future and I know there’s a long road ahead from where I am now to finally becoming a cardiologist, but in the meantime I can work towards my goal.”
Dr. Ocasio Tapia has a lot of advice for both Puerto Rican and mainland U.S. prospective students considering UMHS.
“I remember asking myself ‘is all this worth it?’ while I was going through searching for housing and all the paperwork before starting at UMHS, and I can tell you it is worth it. I know some of you are doubtful, asking yourself if this is a good decision, and going through a lot of emotions and mixed feelings. That is totally normal. I went through the same process. The biggest challenges lead you to make the toughest decisions, and let me tell you, this is just the beginning. Just hang in there, time is going to fly by and all of the sudden you are wearing a long white coat with a patient in front saying thanks for helping. Study hard, and when frustration comes, study harder.”
He advises incoming students to “study, study and study” and spend time with one’s peers.
“It is important to develop a good network of friends and study buddies to keep you on track,” he said. “You are about to begin a very competitive career so always give your best. For those applying for the Match, research the programs you are interested about, develop a plan, practice the interview even though there are going to be surprise questions. It is better to be prepared as much as you can, and rank the programs in the order of your preference and not by the chances of getting accepted.”
(Top photo) Dr. Ocasio Tapia at UMHS Commencement in NYC on June 7, 2019. Photo: Island Photography
Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.
Scott is Director of Digital Content at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.