As a child growing up in Northern New York, I have always had an interest in the sciences. However, I had a hard time focusing on what I wanted to go into. I knew I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play a more direct role as a nurse/doctor or if I wanted to go into research and contribute to knowledge that could help people. I felt confident enough in the science that I left high school early; however, I quickly found that I was not mature or focused enough to make it through a college level education at that time. I decided to take a few years off. That really helped open my eyes to the world, while also growing as a person and learning how to manage my time and responsibilities. I realized that as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I was very interested in infectious diseases and how they can impact different communities. This led to my decision to go into research so I can learn more about how to gain the skills necessary to understand public health issues.
As a NY native, I was already aware of Upstate’s reputation, however I was excited to learn they have a Medical Biotechnology program that would really help expose me to the world of research while I make plans on what I wanted to do after graduating. The program was phenomenal, I was able to get in contact with a few different labs that allowed me hands on experience in both academic and industry labs, as well as across multiple disciplines: neuroscience, biochemistry, and microbiology/immunology. I really began to learn how much work is needed to go into research and being able to share that knowledge with others. It has helped give me the sneak peek I needed to know I am on the right path. I am thankful for what Upstate has already provided me and I am looking forward to what else it has in store for me! I have been accepted into the College of Graduate studies so that I can pursue a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology in the lab of Dr. Adam Waickman. It is going to be a trying couple of years, but I am excited and hopeful for what comes next!
Every year we see students in respiratory therapy who run with an opportunity. Kristen Cerio is one of those students.
In her final semester, Kristen chose a clinical rotation in leadership and was placed at Upstate University Hospital to work with Adrienne Hickey, Associate Director of Respiratory Care Services. Adrienne, who works on multiple projects for the hospital, introduced Kristen to the current array of issues. Kristen chose to work on the prevention of pressure-sore skin injuries can arise in patients who need to wear a tight-fitting mask to breathe.
For acutely-ill patients who struggle to breathe, a machine with a mask and a rushing flow of air to support breathing can provide incredible relief. These machines can satisfy a patient’s hunger to breathe difficulty and deter intubation, a more invasive support of a patient’s breathing. However, because the masks required for BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines must seal against the face to deliver support to the breath, they can press tightly on a patient’s face. Redness across the bridge of the nose develops into a sunken mark develops into skin breakdown, and the patient is left with an uncomfortable wound.
Kristen studied the problem, diving into the research of pressure-sore prevention, including best practices and solutions attempted at other locations. Working with Adrienne, Kristen selected the best practices and policy options for Upstate—and the best means to educate staff and promote compliance with new policy.
By the end of the semester, Kristen made significant contributions in researching solutions, devising policy, instituting policy, and promoting change in the hospital. Healthcare workers throughout the hospital will become familiar with their promotional poster. Thus, Kristen will leave a mark—by leaving fewer marks on our patients. ~ Stephen Feikes, MA, RRT
Once a high school dropout, now a Doctor of Physical Therapy. My first encounter with a physical therapist was when I was working as a massage therapist in Syracuse, and one helped me understand the origin of my client's symptoms. His breadth of knowledge on the dynamic influence of pain pathology had an immediate impact on me: I knew I wanted to know everything he knew. Following this encounter in 2011, I confidently set a long-term goal of obtaining a degree in physical therapy from SUNY Upstate University… eventually. Because I was juggling my education with parenting, I was comfortable chipping away at this goal slowly. It was in 2017, however, when I found myself a single parent at 35 with no job or money, and back living with my parents, that I decided to take the plunge into the deep water of full-time higher education. I attended SUNY Cortland for two years and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. While at Cortland I applied at Upstate, the school I had my eyes on since 2011, and the only school I applied to. Mine and my children’s future resting on one interview. The day I received my acceptance phone call I will never forget; I only remember crying.
Being a non-traditional student is a challenge to say the least. But being a non-traditional student in medical school during a pandemic, which periodically shuts the world down, is at best like attempting to nail Jell-O to the wall, and at worse, like trying to un-ring a bell. And that is if everything in your personal life goes right, which in my case it didn’t. Luckily, I had the wonderful staff of professors at Upstate to help me make it through the seemingly inevitable tribulations the fates brought upon me while attaining my doctorate. For instance, when my six-year-old son was severely attacked by a dog at a 4th of July party during my second clinical rotation, or when I needed to be by the side of a loved one who was dealing with the complications of a heart transplant mid-semester, my professors were nothing but supportive, going as far as personally reaching out to ask if they could help or be of assistance in anyway. Or when I was suddenly faced with the responsibility of having to homeschool my youngest son when COVID hit while keeping up with my own rigorous academics, the faculty at Upstate worked with me with all the understanding I could have wished for. Without their non-stop encouragement, guidance, and support, I would not have made it to the finish line.
One probably never thinks of an institution having a tremendous impact on someone’s life, but it is true, whether we set aside time to appreciate it or not. Through Upstate I had the opportunity to conduct student-led research using trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, which inspired me to specialize in neuro post-graduation. Almost serendipitously, my final clinical rotation at a preschool, which I absolutely loved, solidified me specializing in pediatrics with a neuro certification. I am happy to say I have a job lined up in the fall working for a local pediatric agency called Thrive by Five. If it wasn’t for Upstate, it is safe to say I wouldn’t have a career in the exact field I want to be in, and I wouldn’t be able to provide for my children in the manner I am able to now. So, in a way, Upstate didn’t just help me become the kind of doctor I didn’t know I wanted to be, but they helped me be the kind of mother I always wanted to be.
Obtaining my Doctoral Degree in Physical Therapy has been one of my greatest accomplishments. I would have never guessed that a young boy who immigrated to the United States at the age of 5 would be walking across the stage to receive his Doctoral degree. Being a son of undocumented immigrants and being undocumented myself, college to me was something I could only dream of. Fortunately, I was granted the opportunity to apply and receive a social security number through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or formerly known as DACA. This meant that I could legally stay in this beautiful country I now call home, work legally, and open new opportunities for a better future. However, at the time DACA recipients did not receive any funding to attend post-secondary schools. Luckily, I met a couple that changed my life, Leslie and Mark Sillcox. Thanks to their generosity I was granted a full-ride scholarship to obtain an Undergraduate Degree in Math & Science. Fast forward to my time at Upstate Medical University, the Sillcox Foundation once again helped fund my education. The faculty at Upstate made me feel like I was at home. They not only helped develop my professional skills, but they also allowed me to grow into an individual that my family is proud of. I am extremely fortunate to have had amazing professors that loved what they did and went above and beyond to ensure their students were well equipped to take on what the world has to offer. After graduation I plan on taking the New York State licensure exam in late July and begin practicing as a clinician in an outpatient Orthopedic and Sports facility in Long Island, NY. Furthermore, I look forward to obtaining an Orthopedic Clinical Specialty within my first to second year as a clinician. Being that I am the first in my family to attend college, to obtain a doctoral degree, and first DACA recipient to attend and graduate from the Upstate Physical Therapy Program, I feel like my job as a clinician is not done just yet. The legacy I would love to leave behind is building clinics in remote areas of my home country, Honduras, where health access is difficult to come by. For now, I am grateful to be in the position I once dreamt about when I was just 15 years old.
My path to the Upstate radiation therapy program started when I was in high school. When I was growing up my mother was in and out of the hospital a lot. I found myself intrigued by the nurses and other medical staff. I admired their ability to care for my mom while she was at her lowest. When I got into high school, I joined the Crouse CHOICES program where people from different realms of the medical field spoke about what they did. The radiation therapy presentation was done by the clinical instructor at the time, as well as a group of junior students in the program. The difference between this presentation and all the others was the passion. When I heard the students speak, I was in awe of how much they loved what they were learning. Their faces lit up when they spoke of being able to help kill cancer every day. It was the perfect balance of technical skill while still having a great amount of patient care. The students explained how they got to see the same patients each day, for several weeks. I remember smiling, leaving the presentation knowing I just found my passion. I went home and researched the program and the field in general. I pictured myself in this field ever since that presentation. I fell in love with the idea of being a radiation therapist and helping people through one of the hardest times in their life.
Upstate stood out due to the great statistics for the national exam pass rate. Along with this, the clinical hours caught my attention because they were much more than many other programs, which I saw as an opportunity to develop great skills as a student and be a stronger radiation therapist starting out. I can confidently say the things that drew me to this program held true once I was a part of it. My instructors went above and beyond to ensure we understood the material, we developed clinical skills, and we were ready for our board exam.
Now, I have received my Bachelor of Science in radiation therapy and have passed my registry exam, making me a board certified radiation therapist. Upstate opened my eyes to how much is out there in the world, and the opportunities are truly endless. With the help and support of my instructors and the skills I developed as a student, I was able to land a job in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona. To say I am excited would be an understatement. Upstate gave me the skills, confidence, and knowledge to take a huge leap of faith and follow my dreams. I could not have asked for a better professional program and I will forever be grateful for my time at Upstate.
Hometown: Elmont, New York.
Education: BA in Biological Science at SUNY Binghamton.
Master’s Research Project: The long-term effect of aldehyde buildup in ALDH2-deficient individuals.
Health Care Experience:
Hobbies & Extracurricular Activities: Biking, hiking, journaling, playing basketball, and dog-walking.
Hometown: Cobleskill, New YorkEducation: