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Anthony Carona is a Man on a Mission

University of St. Thomas Post-Baccalaureate Bridge to Medical school


Anthony Carona had it all mapped out since middle school. He would be a priest. The young man from Temple, Texas, earned a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in philosophy from Catholic University of America. But during his seminary studies in Rome, where he “was in heaven,” Carona experienced a dawning awareness — he wasn’t happy.

“Though everything around me was perfect, though I loved everything that I was doing, I keenly felt that this was not for me,” Carona remembered.

A long-held, backburner thought of becoming a doctor moved front and center. He confirmed his calling for medicine during a subsequent trip to Mother Teresa’s medical mission in India, where he worked with the poorest of the poor who also were sick, disabled and dying.

“What I witnessed in the Home for the Dying was the great need for more doctors to come in and treat the underlying conditions and restore these precious beings to health,” Carona said. “It gave me a sense of mission, a deeper sense of purpose. I knew I would become a physician.”

When Medicine as a Calling Comes Later

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track how often people switch careers, Carona is not alone. Untold numbers of individuals leave their established livelihoods to pursue medicine — many of them after years in a field that no longer suits them. Some find themselves responding to a medical calling that had been derailed or came later in life. They want to be a doctor, dentist, physician’s assistant, veterinarian or other health professional.

Career-specific education, such as medical school, is required, and the competition is fierce. They need the right preparation to gain admittance. They need a bridge from where they are to where they are going.

Call on UST’s Crucial Pre-Health Professions Program

The University of St. Thomas attracts such individuals with its highly successful, non-degree program designed especially for post-baccalaureate students headed for a career in medicine: the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Professions Program.

For Carona and others like him, the one- to two-year program is a crucial stepping-stone to entering medical school.

Gabriel J. Villares, director of the Pre-Health Professions Program and associate professor of biology, said it doesn’t matter which bachelor’s degree students already have.

“We’re here to make sure they not only complete every prerequisite course they need before applying to the specialized health professional school that comes next, but also that each student is the best candidate that they can be before they apply,” he said.

How robust is the preparation?

“Second to none,” Villares said. “After completing our program, Anthony Carona scored in the 96th percentile on his MCAT and has a 3.99 GPA. He was favored by 10 medical schools in Texas and accepted an incredible offer to be a member of the inaugural medical school class at the University of Houston. Anthony and the rest of his 30-member cohort are having their tuition 100% underwritten by an anonymous donor.”

Huge Benefits at UST

“The first thing that sold me was the small size and feel at St. Thomas and its proximity to the world’s largest medical center,” Carona said. “I knew I would have more opportunities at UST and get to know my professors and build relationships with them. To get into medical school, you have to have substantive letters about you written by your professors. Mine wrote genuinely meaningful letters.”

Another Aspect That Sold Carona was the Catholic Identity of the School.

“I gave up on being a priest, but faith still plays a big role in my life,” the future primary care physician said. “I often went to Mass on campus, and the chapel was a great comfort to me when I felt overwhelmed. I could go and kneel and feel God leading me in the right direction.”

Many who answered a later call to medicine also have been guided to UST’s Post-Bac Pre-Health Professions Program. They have learned that it’s never too late to follow one’s heart into the growing health care field. 

Learn more about the Post-Bac Pre-Health Professions Program:

About the Author — Jamie Roark

Jamie RoarkJamie Roark is an experienced, Houston-based content creator & communications skills coach. Through her company, Simply Communicate USA, she especially enjoys helping Higher Education and healthcare organizations to tell stories that inform and influence.

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