Recently Dr. Bruce Davidson interviewed Scott Vizarra, current president of the Student Government Association (SGA) at Saint James School of Medicine. This is the transcript of this interview.
What is your background?
SCOTT VIZARRA: I’m from Maryland, and went to the University of Maryland where I majored in Biological Sciences.
What impressions did you get of the island and SJSM when you were in MD1?
SCOTT VIZARRA: The School has excellent faculty and provides a good education, what you need to prepare for USMLE.
As to the island, once you get used to it you can find everything you need. It may not be the same as back home, but if you’re willing to try different brands you can get what you want. One limitation is the lack of fast food outlets, we’ve only got Subway and KFC, but given the sedentary student lifestyle – most of your days sitting in the class – then maybe that’s an advantage! But I do miss the convenience of things being open 24/7. If you’ve been studying for hours and feel like a burger, you can’t just go and get one at 1 in the morning.
What do you most enjoy about the island?
SCOTT VIZARRA: I guess that there’s no cold weather! And being able to get out and breathe fresh air, the scenery and of course the ocean life.
Have you had a chance to try the water-based activities?
SCOTT VIZARRA: I haven’t been diving yet, but I have snorkelled. When I tried windsurfing I realized what hard work it is – all the upper body strength you need, that I haven’t got! But I will dive if I can fit it in before I leave, it’d be a real shame not to while I’m here.
What will stay in your memory most once you have left Bonaire?
SCOTT VIZARRA: The slower, simpler and more relaxed pace of life. In the US it’s hectic and you have to have all the trappings. Here I’ve learned to get by with less and to be much more self-sufficient, which’ll help a lot when I go back.
Why did you stand for election as SGA President?
SCOTT VIZARRA: I’ve always liked helping people and this gives me the chance to do something for the students. Even though it takes a lot of my time I enjoy the things we do – it’s fun – and long term I think it helps to build character. And if I can improve my interpersonal skills it’ll help long term dealing with patients.
Where do you see the SGA going?
SCOTT VIZARRA: Well, the executive are a great bunch of people, so I see it going only one way – forward. I hope the new guys carry on with what we’ve got going – the USMLE prep group, the Health Fairs and outreach, the Committee representatives, the communications channels.
How well do you think the communications are working?
SCOTT VIZARRA: They’re OK, so so. The website is popular, but we need to make sure that all students have access to the information they need. The feedback we’ve had from prospective and incoming students is that the website has been brilliant, especially for finding accommodation and cars, and just getting a feel for the place before you get here – not being totally lost.
Thinking about new students, what advice would you give them before they come here?
SCOTT VIZARRA: Come here with an open mind, don’t have preconceived expectations, make the best of it even if it is a culture shock at first. You will miss home and the facilities of the island are limited, but long term you’ll benefit hugely in self development, self confidence and assurance.
Where do you see your career going?
SCOTT VIZARRA: I’m based in Chicago now, so I expect I’ll stay there. I’d like to specialize in internal medicine, once I qualify. And I would like to come back for a visit.
Lastly, if you were asked to recommend SJSM and the island, would you do so?
SCOTT VIZARRA: I would. Not just the School, but the entire island experience as well as I think Bonaire has helped me to develop a lot personally.