Alessandra Bliss is the first Ohio State University College of Medicine student to receive the Kontogiannis Scholar in Medicine Award, a new scholarship endowed by George Kontogiannis. The scholarship is given to a first-year medical student who received their undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and who shows an outstanding commitment to community service.
Here, in her own words, Bliss explains why she chose The Ohio State University College of Medicine, why she is motivated to serve others and how, through this scholarship, she will positively change lives.
In my neighborhood on the East side of Cleveland where I grew up, world-class health care was all around us.
For many people there, it couldn’t have been farther away.
As a young girl, I couldn’t understand why so many people – my own grandparents being an example – didn’t “just go to the doctor.” Since then, I’ve come to understand just how complex the problem of access to health care is.
I am making it my life’s work to address this problem. At The Ohio State University College of Medicine, I’ve found the ideal place to begin tackling it. As the first Kontogiannis Scholar in Medicine, I am all the more confident I can make a difference.
Having seen the disparities that were present in my neighborhood, I’ve been passionate about community service as a way to help. As an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, I volunteered at various branches of the Columbus Metropolitan Library as a Buckeye Library Leader. In this program, which I helped grow to reach hundreds of students each week, I worked to inspire young minority students to get excited about STEM topics. Through one-on-one tutoring and hands-on learning, I demonstrated that science is not only fascinating and useful but is open to all.
The experience very much resonated with me. My mother came to Cleveland from Puerto Rico when she was in high school, and did not speak English when she arrived. Many of the first- and second-generation immigrant students I worked with at the library were in very similar situations. I wanted to show them that, no matter where you came from, you could achieve your dreams through education. It’s a lesson my parents very much instilled in me.
After completing my undergraduate degree in microbiology, I spent two years continuing to work with children both healthy and sick – this time as a teacher with the Cleveland Public School District and as a Health Unit Coordinator in the Pediatric Emergency Room. I used this time to apply to medical schools and was admitted to several, but Ohio State had my heart.
Throughout my application process, it was clear that Ohio State truly valued having me as a College of Medicine student. We have the second-highest percentage of African-American students among all medical schools nationally, a testament to the incredible work being done by Dr. Quinn Capers, vice dean of faculty at the College of Medicine, and Dr. Leon McDougle, chief diversity officer for the Wexner Medical Center, among others.
Already in my brief time here, I’ve been so impressed by the atmosphere, the excitement and the opportunities at the College of Medicine. As I pursue my dream of working in pediatrics, I am ecstatic to see what the next four years will bring me.
The support I have found here has been crucial to me being where I am today. Because of the investment the university and my scholarship donor have made in me, children will lead better, healthier lives. I will be sure of it.
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Class of 2023