Angelo Cruz knows emergencies could care less about your status in life.
Cardiac arrest, shock, broken wrists or concussion can strike the CEO of a Fortune 500 company just as easily as they can disable the janitor of a local non-profit.
"If it is an emergency, you need help,” says Cruz. "I like meeting all kinds of people and helping all kinds of people. In the emergency department you can really make a difference. Visitors are scared and they don’t know where to go. Even if it’s nothing big, if it is bothersome enough to get you in the ED, it’s important. If I can help you in even a small way, that’s rewarding.”
Cruz, 26, of Paulding, Ohio, is a fourth-year medical student who will do three years of residency in emergency medicine at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. He will join his classmates in receiving medical degrees Saturday, May 19, 2018, as part of Honors Day activities in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. The college is awarding 148 medical degrees.
"Honestly, the variety of patients in emergency medicine, you can’t beat it,” says Cruz.
Emergency physicians often serve in high-pressure settings, shaped by constraints of time, limited resources and simply too many patients.
"They call it the undifferentiated patient,” says Cruz, referring to visitors to emergency departments. "Often, you really don’t know what is going on, you just know what the patient comes in complaining about. That’s all you get and you have to go from there. You meet all kinds of people. There are some specialties that do more elective procedures, but it’s a different patient population who can afford to do that.”
"Emergencies, they don’t discriminate,” says Cruz. "It doesn’t matter who you are when an emergency occurs, you need assistance.”
Cruz says he developed an interest in medicine as a young boy battling severe allergies, asthma and spending time in and out of hospitals with skilled and compassionate physicians. He had a love for science as a youth and found his curiosity in medicine grew while watching cable channels such as the Discovery Channel and Discovery Health.
He entered UC on a full Darwin T. Turner scholarship and was part of the Connections Dual Admissions Program, which allows students to apply to both a UC undergraduate degree program and MD program in the College of Medicine simultaneously. Cruz majored in biomedical engineering and was part of the University Honors Program.
"From the moment we met him on his interview day at age 17, we knew that Angelo was going to make a difference in medicine,” says Abbigail Tissot, PhD, assistant dean of admissions and special programs whose office runs the Connections Program. "He has always had his own point of view and that was part of the reason he explored medicine through a biomedical engineering program. Luckily, Angelo isn’t shy. He shares the way he sees things and this gives everyone around him the opportunity to appreciate that there are many ways to view things that are all valid.”
In medical school, Cruz says he focused on academics and doing well on the United States Medical Licensing Exam. Even so, Cruz found time to be a mentor in Med Mentors, a volunteer effort in the College of Medicine that works with the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative to link UC students with Cincinnati Public School students. He also participated in the UC chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA).
Cruz played a role in helping to organize a Midwest regional conference for LMSA held at UC. As a fourth-year medical student, Cruz had time to tutor first-year medical students to improve their knowledge of gross anatomy.
He says he has many good memories of UC, but one experience that stands out is Match Day. He gathered with his colleagues to learn where they would spend the next several years in medical residency, while Cruz’s mother and a friend waited in nearby Kresge Auditorium.
"She wasn’t in the room with me so I texted her and my friend,” recalls Cruz. "As I was getting ready to open the envelope everyone started yelling, ‘Wait, Wait.’ It was really exciting for her to be able to come into the room as I opened the letter. Match Day wasn’t just for me. She put in so much work and sacrifice. It really was our day.”
Cruz offers some advice to incoming medical students: "Keep your head up and try not to lose who you are. Medical school can be consuming. It’s tiring and it’s a lot of hard work. It is important to remember that you are a person outside of school. Hold on to that and it makes the whole ride easier.”
Cruz has many well-wishers in the College of Medicine.
"Honestly, this place is going to be a little less fun without Angelo in it,” says Tissot. We’ll miss his incredible intellect and vivacious personality. But, we’re so proud of all that he accomplished while he was here and we are certain that he’ll touch a great many lives through his practice of emergency medicine.”