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Andre Christie: Medicine On His Mind

May 18, 2016 — Andre Christie will receive his Associate in Science degree from Bronx Community College next month, days after returning from South Africa, where he is studying health care for the poor. The day after Commencement, he will fly down to Bethesda, Maryland, to work beside medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health. A month after that, he’ll transfer to New York University, the next step in his dream of becoming a doctor.

Yet only four years ago, Andre was living a very different life in an impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica.

"The community I lived in was considered among the most dangerous in the world, recalls Andre. "In my childhood, I saw people getting shot. They were helpless. That’s really how my passion for helping people came about."

But Andre realized that to act on that passion he would need something he could not get at home. Poverty prevented his family from sending him to a four-year institution. "I believe that the lack of educational opportunities caused them to think about low paid jobs that are quick rather than having me sacrifice the time to become a medical doctor," says Andre.

And so Andre immigrated to the United States in 2013. Arriving in Chicago, he spent his weekdays cleaning a ship that plied the Great Lakes as he devoted his weekends to getting a U.S. high school degree to supplement the one he had earned in Jamaica. Diploma in hand, Andre moved to New York City. While working as a home health aide, he learned about Bronx Community College. He started out at BCC as an evening student in the Fall of 2013 — and thrived.

"My major here is diet and nutrition, but I have so many advanced classes I might as well be a science major," observes Andre, whose credits run the gamut from biology to microbiology, math, pharmacology, chemistry — and a particular favorite, medical ethics. "I enjoy exploring the moral dilemmas often experienced in the medical field. The struggle to determine what is right and wrong in that arena is exciting."

Andre’s mastery of his chosen field and his leadership qualities have been noticed by both faculty and staff at BCC, where he partly pays his way by tutoring others. He also has won an impressive array of awards and scholarships: the New York City Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation; the Bronx Health Opportunities Partnership- Einstein scholarship; and the Mavis and Ephraim Hawthorne Golden Krust Foundation award. In the spring of 2014, Andre’s impressive grade point average and course load earned him BCC’s President’s Award.

Somehow Andre has also found time to be involved in BCC’s rich extracurricular life as a member of the Sustainability Committee and STEM club and president last year of the Food and Gardening Club.

Andre’s current fieldwork in South Africa was made possible by the International Scholar Laureate Program — Andre is the first BCC student to receive this honor. "You come in contact with patients with different diseases. It’s kind of frightening, but as a medical professional you cannot be afraid to take up the challenge."

Andre was one of only 10 out of 350 students to be chosen for that ten week summer research program in Bethesda. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, it awards students up to $20,000 per academic year and employment when they graduate. Andre’s participation is another BCC first.

Andre has two long-range goals for the promising career that lies ahead of him.
One is to become a cardiothoracic surgeon — a specialist in the heart, lungs and other organs in the chest. The other is more personal. "A lot of men die of prostate cancer in Jamaica because of homophobia — They don’t believe the doctor should be examining the prostate and do not partake of primary care prevention. My grandfather had that type of mentality," Andre sadly recalls. "My goal is to establish a prostate cancer research center in Kingston."

Andre hasn’t seen his family back home since he came to the United States. "I’ve made this promise to myself — I will go back when I accomplish my bachelor’s degree." It looks like that’s a promise Andre Christie will have no problem keeping.


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