MHS salutatorian stays in Midland to begin medical career

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MHS salutatorian stays in Midland to begin medical careerApril 06, 2021

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Shaquila Sarapao, photo by Tonya Dawson

Shaquila Sarapao has wanted to be a doctor for as long as she can remember.  In just 7 years, Sarapao will realize that dream.  Thanks to a partnership among Midland College (MC), Midland Health, the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM), she will be able to enter her medical residency program as early as 2027 and won’t have to take the expensive and laborious MCAT medical school entrance exam.

“Shaquila is a bright, hardworking student, who knows what it takes to be successful,” Joseph Schenkman, MC associate professor of Biology, said.  “She has not only met, but exceeded all expectations thus far. We look forward to great things from her in the future.”

Sarapao was the salutatorian at Midland High School (MHS) in 2020 and could have gone to school just about anywhere; however, she chose to stay in Midland and enroll in MC’s Primary Care Pathway program.

“It just made sense,” Sarapao explained.  “It’s a great program.  I’m taking the same classes I would be taking at a four-year university, but at a much more reasonable cost.  I’m also able to get more individualized attention from the instructors.  In addition, I am saving on living expenses because I’m able to live at home for two years.”

Sarapao will continue her studies at Midland College through May 2022.  At that time, she will transfer to UNT in Denton for one year and then TCOM in Ft. Worth for four years.  She will be shadowing doctors at Midland Memorial Hospital (MMH) as well as doing volunteer work there.  When she enters medical school at TCOM, she will return to Midland periodically to do clinical rotations at MMH.

“My older brother Khait is also in the program,” she said.  “He graduated from Midland College in May 2020 and is now completing his year at UNT.  He has already been accepted to TCOM and will start there in July.  That’s one reason I decided to enroll in the Primary Care Pathway program.  He’s enjoying it, and it’s prepared him well for his classes at UNT.”

The Sarapao family has lived in Midland for 17 years, and they are no strangers to the healthcare industry.  When Shaquila was just two years old, the family migrated to Midland from the Philippines because her mother Brenda, who is a nurse, was offered a job at MMH.

“I guess having a mother who is a nurse caused my brother and me to become interested in medicine,” Shaquila said.

In addition to her interest in medicine, Sarapao is also an avid tennis player.  She played for four years on the Midland High varsity tennis team and still enjoys playing for fun.  She also coaches tennis occasionally at Bush Tennis Center.  

Sarapao plays four musical instruments—guitar, ukulele, piano and violin.

“The first instrument I learned was the piano when I was in the 2nd grade,” Sarapao explained.  I took violin lessons between 4th and 8th grade.  I learned to play the ukulele when I was in the 10th grade and then taught myself to play the guitar during the COVID quarantine—just for something to do.”

During high school, she was in the marching band color guard and was a member of the MHS Robotics and Academic Decathlon team while holding leadership positions in those and other school organizations.  She also competed in the Skills USA Health Sciences competition.  In addition, Sarapao worked at the Cracker Barrel while she was in high school, and now works 12-20 hours per week at MMH answering phones and scheduling COVID tests.  She also takes up babysitting gigs now and then when her schedule allows it.

During the past semester at MC, Sarapao has particularly enjoyed her science courses.  Her favorite class has been Anatomy and Physiology taught by Joseph Schenkman, who is also the coordinator of the Primary Care Pathway program, and she said that she enjoyed the genetics section of her General Biology class taught by Dr. Paul Mangum.  

“Shaquila was really a quick study at everything we did in the General Biology lab,” Dr. Mangum said. “She did something I’ve not seen any other student ever do.  During the lab, I have the students decode a message from a sequence of DNA in which I have encrypted the message.  Most students just start at the beginning and code straight through. Shaquila recognized that parts of the message could repeat in other parts, so she took parts that she had decoded and found the repeats.  That way she wouldn’t have to double decode, triple decode or more.   This demonstrated to me how well she is able to think outside a boxed view of an assignment. With that kind of thinking she should be able to do well in anything she sets her mind to do.” 

Other MC professors have taken note of Sarapao’s intellect and abilities.

"Shaquila is an excellent communicator.” Dr. William Brown, MC co-department chair of English, said.  “She speaks and writes clearly. She blends a strong ability to consider bigger picture ideas with a fine eye for detail."  

In late January, the MC English department recognized Sarapao’s communication and writing skills during the annual Rebecca T. Watson Creative Writing Contest Awards Ceremony.  Sarapao won first place in the Essay category for her essay “An Immigrant’s Daughter,” which she said was inspired by her mother.  She also won first place in the Poetry category for her poem “Anatomy of the Human Body,” a fitting title for work authored by a young woman interested in pursuing a medical career.

“Midland College has been an eye-opening experience,” Sarapao said.  “If I had to give advice to someone graduating from high school this year, I’d tell them that college is going to be tough—no matter where you go.  However, it’s a great opportunity to explore your potential.  Being in a new environment is a little intimidating, but remember that there are other students just like you.  Reach out and involve yourself in something.  If you are interested in the medical profession, I highly recommend the Primary Care Pathway program at Midland College.  You will save a ton of money; the professors are great; and I’ve made a lot of new friends with the other students who are in my cohort.  Midland has one of the best community colleges out there; I’m really thankful for that.”

Photo by Tonya Dawson

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