By Jane Erikson
Catherine Cosentino, MD, has been passionate about the practice of medicine since before she entered medical school. Now she is equally passionate about a barrier that keeps some students from pursuing their dreams of becoming physicians.
When Cosentino graduated from the UA College of Medicine in 1983, the average medical student loan debt was $23,600 – or $55,300 in today’s dollars, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Now, the median medical student loan debt is $175,000, AAMC reported recently, with some new doctors owing $200,000 or more.
“Medicine is a wonderful field, and I highly recommend people go into medicine,” Cosentino says. “But it’s a bit disconcerting, knowing you will face that kind of debt when you graduate.”
As a member of the College of Medicine Alumni board, Cosentino is working with fellow board members, and the College of Medicine Office of Development, to encourage all alumni to consider giving to scholarship funds to help all medical students will be eligible.
Cosentino realized in high school that she wanted to be a doctor. She and her family moved from Ohio to Tucson in 1975, knowing there was a medical school here. She did her undergraduate work at the UA, graduating in 1979.
“I was very science-oriented, and I couldn’t think of anything more fulfilling than helping people through the practice of medicine,” she says.
When Cosentino started medical school, she was interested in everything. The only field that did not appeal to her was surgery.
“I changed my mind multiple times about what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “I put surgery off until the end of my third year because I thought I was going to hate it. And then when I did surgery I fell in love with it. And the same thing happened when I picked pediatric surgery. I knew right away it was what I had to do. And whenever I see a child get better, it reminds me that I made the right choice.”
Every so often, Cosentino will run into a grateful parent while shopping. “They will recognize me and say, ‘This is Johnny. You operated on him back in . . .’ and they are so happy to see me. I feel blessed to be able to do this work.”
She wants the same for today’s medical students.
“The students are young, they’re energetic, they’re enthusiastic, they’re altruistic,” Cosentino says. “We want them to stay that way and show them the alumni are behind them all the way.”
“I hope that by providing more scholarships to students, they’re going to feel that we all appreciate what they’re doing and want them to get off to a good start,” Cosentino says.
She and the alumni board have an additional goal: They want alumni to be more engaged with students.
Cosentino offers a core lecture to third-year medical students each year. Medical students and residents also rotate through her private practice group. “It keeps you young,” she says. “It keeps you on your toes.”
To make a gift in support of scholarships for medical students, contact the College of Medicine Office of Development at (520) 626-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.