Sisters return home to Camden to study medicine

Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer
Monday, October 6, 2014

CAMDEN-When the doctors-to-be from Camden wore their white coats outside this month for the first time, a young man pulled his car over and shouted a question: Why are you guys wearing those doctors' costumes?

Samantha and Susana Collazo recognized a former classmate from Brimm Medical Arts High School in the Whitman Park section of the city.

"Oh, we're medical students," replied the Collazos, twins from Cramer Hill who this fall became the first Camden residents to attend Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

"And he said, 'No way! That's so cool!' He was so happy," Samantha Collazo said.

Since returning home for medical school, the sisters have had several such encounters in which they've been encouraged, praised, and supported by strangers, long-lost classmates, neighbors.

There also have been less happy times, when they've seen the deep need for accessible health care in the city.

While volunteering in a halfway house in the city a few summers ago, Samantha and Susana Collazo were stunned to find themselves serving people they knew and had grown up with.

"It was kind of a shock, because we were all exposed to the same environment, but a few of us fell a little behind," said Samantha Collazo, then a Rutgers University-New Brunswick student spending summer 2012 in the Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment (PULSE) Program at Cooper Medical School.

Susana Collazo said the summer program helped shape the sisters' decision to apply to Cooper Medical School, where they could study medicine in the place where they hope to practice some day.

"For me and Sam, we didn't fall into the traps of being stuck here. . . . We went to New Brunswick, we saw what could be, and then we came back to try to make that happen," Susana Collazo said.

To continue reading the article and hear how the sisters are impacting our Promise Neighborhood Family Success Center through volunteering, click here