JULY 2010

Pipe Dream
By Nicholas Ducassi, Carnegie Mellon Today, July 2010

Roberta SefcikAs the sun sets behind Wean Hall, Roberta Sefcik, standing on the Cut, stretches her fingers wide and takes a deep breath. Moments later, she can be heard throughout the Pittsburgh campus. Not her exactly, but the bagpipe she is playing. It's her weekly outdoor practice. Many students, busy heading somewhere, stop for a moment and watch. Sefcik smiles behind her mouthpiece. She's living her dream. Part of it, that is.

The sophomore wants to master the bagpipes, but she also wants to become a doctor and work in geriatric care in her home state of Florida. Most academic advisors would shudder at having a student combine the demanding workload from pre-med classes with the grueling pursuit of mastering a musical instrument. At the start of her sophomore year, even the music major knew it was an all but impossible dream—continuing her studies in bagpipe performance in the College of Fine Arts would inevitably close the door on her future as a doctor.

But, at the beginning of the school year, when she stepped into the office of her advisor, Ari Blackford, and explained her predicament, she told her not to abandon her complete dream just yet. Weeks went by. Sefcik held out hope, but each day that passed brought her that much further away from the pre-med regimen that would get her into a med school.

Then came an email from Blackford. Through Stephanie Wallach of the Fellowships and Scholarships Office, she had discovered a unique program offered by New York City's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Humanities and Medicine Early Acceptance Program accepts students during the sophomore year who wish "to explore their interests in humanities and social sciences." Mount Sinai seeks candidates who possess strong math and science skills as well as personal attributes that demonstrate promise for becoming compassionate physicians. Applicants aren't required to focus their curricula on pre-med courses or even to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).

Sefcik was ecstatic. She applied to the Humanities and Medicine Program and was one of just 36 students accepted nationwide. She still must graduate with an A average, take two semesters each of biology and chemistry, and attend an eight-week science "boot-camp" during the summer following her junior year that includes courses in physics and organic chemistry. That's all just fine with Sefcik, whose bagpipes continue to echo throughout campus.

For more information:
Roberta Sefcik Living Her Dreams