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Diagnosis for Success: Future Physician Gets Her Start at RCSJ

Future emergency medical physician, Taylor Federico, has big goals and she has chosen Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) as her starting place.

Homeschooled from a young age, the Fairton-Bridgeton resident had an early glimpse at the college experience when her mother, Michelle Federico, began attending Cumberland County College (now RCSJ’s Cumberland campus) when her daughter was 10. The pair chatted about their respective lessons often, sparking a love of learning. When she graduated from high school in 2019, she followed in her mother’s footsteps enrolling at RCSJ.

“It was pretty amazing to watch my mom get her degree here,” remembered Federico. “Plus, I selected RCSJ in Cumberland because it was affordable. I have a PELL grant and that’s a really dear blessing to me and my family. I’m debt-free and the College is so close to home.”

With her long-held interest in giving back to her community through the medical profession, Federico was drawn to RCSJ’s Biological Science associate degree program. After completing her entrance exam to find her math score was not as high as she had hoped, she took advantage of summer classes at RCSJ that put her on-track to register as a full-time STEM student the following fall.

“I want to be an example that you shouldn’t give up,” she remarked. “Girls who are thinking about a career in STEM shouldn’t let anyone talk them out of it, even if their grades aren’t perfect, because grades can always be improved. Get yourself together and take some summer courses; just don’t give up. That’s the win.”

In laying the groundwork for success, Federico also decided to pursue an Alcohol and Drug Counseling certificate in addition to her Biological Science degree. She thought that it would help her relate to future patients—both with and without substance abuse issues—and polish up her people skills.

“I really think it’s important that we understand people,” she explained. “In the certificate program, I’m taking these sociology classes which help me understand how to better communicate with people who have many different diseases and disorders.”

College brought the Federico women even closer, as mother provided daughter tips on all the best classes and her favorite professors. She encouraged her daughter to be proactive, ask for help when she needed it, and take advantage of every opportunity that came her way—something Federico took to heart.

She spent extra time getting to know her professors, attended every on-campus event she could and took on the role of social media coordinator for the campus’ Student Government Association. Federico also became an eager participant in the STEM Club—an organization for which she recently served as president and an eager recruiter.

“I don’t care what your major is, you should join the STEM club,” she exclaimed. “Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics—all amazing! You never know when it might be useful.”

A huge fan of the free academic resources at RCSJ who is on a first-name basis with Tutoring Center staff, Federico embraced opportunities to pay it forward to her fellow students as she progressed in her studies. She took on paid student worker positions as a STEM Pathways mentor and an academic coach, and found immense satisfaction in encouraging other students, coaching them, and watching their grades soar.

“I’m very passionate about helping people—especially my peers,” said Federico. “I wanted to help because I needed help when I first went to college. I was in their shoes.”

Federico still finds time to dedicate to her own academic advancement. She is a participant in the Cumberland Bridge to Rowan (CB2R) program—a competitive, biomedical research program for underrepresented students, made possible by the College’s premier partnership with Rowan University and funding through the National Institute of Health. The program provides scientific skills boot camps, research workshops, seminar series, specialized academic courses, the opportunity to attend and present at medical symposiums, and a paid research experience during sophomore year. Federico was also assigned a mentor of her own, to help keep her inspired and on-track.

“I’ve got to thank CB2R, because without it I would not be standing right here, being a Biological Science major,” Federico admitted. “I love my mentor, Cynthia. I always ask her questions about all of my school activities and my academic plans.”

CB2R has opened Federico’s eyes to the importance of research within the medical fields, how to understand and incorporate new findings, and that learning is truly a lifelong calling for a doctor. She credits the program for helping her to better understand the threat of COVID-19 and become more vigilant in keeping herself and her loved ones safe and healthy, as well.

“Research programs like CBR2 allow RCSJ students to begin building an academic network of peers and mentors, while providing insight into areas of cutting-edge research that will shape their future professions,” explained Diane Trace, the College’s Dean of STEM. “Additionally, the skills built through these research opportunities are an asset to students as they move on to four-year institutions and eventually into the job market.”

Federico graduated from RCSJ last week in a commencement ceremony where she was recognized as “Outstanding Student of the Year” on the Cumberland campus. She plans to follow CB2R’s path to Rowan University for her bachelor’s degree this fall, before heading to either the Rowan School of Medicine or Cooper Medical School at Rowan University for her doctorate. Ultimately, she plans to return to Cumberland County to give back to her community through a career in emergency medicine. Even with so much to look forward to, Federico admits that she will miss her time as a student at RCSJ.

“RCSJ is there for you; they’re your support system. My advisors, professors and the staff there have been a blessing and help.” Federico reflected. “I tell everyone to take advantage of this school. It’s a great college. I love it and I’m going to miss it.”

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