Since 2008, Marco Diaz-Cordova has had many experiences with the Institute’s Health Science Academy, first as an HSA scholar, and later as an alum when he interned as an Activity Specialist with the HSA’s Ninth Grade Bridge program. Marco described that experience as “fantastic!” For eight weeks Diaz-Cordova helped HSA staff prepare lessons plans and activities. “There was the enzyme lab to show how the gastro system works, and discussions about the correlation between longevity and health and the availability of fresh food by zip code. You could see it on kids’ faces when they realized the number of fast food restaurants in their neighborhoods, ‘So that could account for the extra twenty years [of life]!’”
Originally from Ecuador, Diaz-Cordova came to Brooklyn, and the Academy in 2008 as a freshman at Nazareth Regional High School. “It was hard at first learning the language and getting used to the fast pace here,” he says. Both of his parents are doctors and he knew he was interested in medicine, so he understood the benefit of participating in the Health Science Academy. “I am so grateful I had this opportunity, he says, “I enjoyed the birthing simulation and the gross anatomy lab, seeing how things work, having the instructors walking us through, seeing the instruments and the anatomy we’d learned from our animal dissections.”
Through HSA, Diaz-Cordova took advantage of the summer research internship offered by SUNY Downstate’s Office of Minority Affairs. Mentored by Dr. Jason Lazar, Diaz-Cordova assisted with a cardiology research project where he recruited subjects from Downstate clinics, administered the test, and ultimately helped present findings to the Dean of Research. “It was pretty overwhelming and I was really nervous, but I am much more confident now from having done all aspects of the project.” Marco’s work resulted in a 2016 published journal article with Dr. Lazar as lead author.
“If I had one piece of advice for current HSA students it would be to really take your studies seriously and take advantage of all the help that is offered.” As a member of his high school’s basketball team, he found the Academy’s time commitment presented some tough choices. “I missed some days at HSA because of games, but I made my best effort while I was there and that made me more comfortable with the material in college, better able to understand because I'd had this background and exposure to biology and physiology.”
Coming from Ecuador, Marco’s dedication to giving back embodies the spirit of Arthur Ashe “do what you can.”