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Immigrant dreams of career as doctor


Eralda Mema’s parents brought their three daughters to the United States from Albania four years ago, hoping the girls would benefit from going to school in America.

Eralda, the oldest, certainly hasn’t let them down. When the family arrived in the States, she was the only one who spoke English. Now 23, she’s a senior majoring in biology with plans to become a doctor.

She transferred to Binghamton after two years at the College of Staten Island, where her youngest sister is now a freshman. The third sister, Rediola, is a junior at Binghamton.

Their father and mother, a military officer and an accountant at home in Albania, are now working in construction and as a babysitter, respectively.

“They did a huge thing by moving here,” Eralda Mema said of her parents. “I feel obligated.”

Mema participated in a mentor program with a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital last summer. She observed several operations, mostly spinal cord and brain tumor procedures. “I was studying for the MCAT during that period, and it was so inspiring,” she said. “That’s what I want to do.”

Mema received scholarships from the Leopold Schepp Foundation as well as the Arnold G. and Lenora Meyer Scholarship Fund this year. She has a 4.0 GPA at Binghamton.

Mema, who counts organic chemistry among her favorite subjects, is in her third semester working in Zhitao Li’s lab. With Li, an assistant professor of chemistry, she studies anthocynins, a molecule with potential anti-cancer activity.

She also finds time to serve as vice president of the Women’s Center, where she’s helping to introduce health topics to weekly meetings.

Janice McDonald, director of the new Office of External Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards, noted Mema has demonstrated exceptional focus since  moving to the States.
“She’s just driven to succeed,” McDonald said. “Her quiet confidence is just amazing.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08