Get to Know the Scholarship Awardees (Part 3): Dmitri Caradja
Dimitri is a graduate from Linked Learning Silver Certified Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School at Sacramento City Unified School District. He worked at UC Davis’ Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department last summer and will be attending UC Davis to study business while taking pre-med courses in the fall.
Linked Learning Alliance: We noticed something really interesting in your scholarship application: it says that you want to pursue a business major and become an oncologist. Tell us a bit about this interesting mix.
Dmitri Caradja: The thing I will be pursuing the hardest is my pre-med prerequisites. But I hope to go for a business major [because] I want to stand out a little bit for the medical field.
So what’s your end goal at UC Davis?
Eventually, I want to become an oncologist and maybe own my own clinic – be more financially stable and pay off my student loans a little bit faster than most oncologists do. I want to work my way up in the oncology field.
Before enrolling at Health Professions High School did you know what you wanted to do?
I was [already] interested in the medical field. I just didn’t know what exactly it was. I remember, from a very young age, being sick a lot and my grandma used to take me to this nurse who would give me shots. I remember it used to hurt so much but [the nurse] always knew the right thing and I would always be back there the next week.
Is there a reason you specifically want to become an oncologist?
I [interviewed] one of the head oncologists at UC Davis for my senior project and I was super inspired by the things he said to me – I just want to be him!
What were some of the things he said that touched you?
He had a lot of the same struggles I did. What hit me the most was his struggle with self-care – which is so important within the medical field because you have to know how to take care of yourself before taking care of others.
So as a way of helping myself, I’m learning how to cook, which is a really different thing for my culture. The guys don’t cook. Usually, we’re very stereotypical and [now] I have to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t be normally doing in my culture. But it’s part of a learning process.
Where’s your family originally from?
We’re from Moldova and I was about nine when I came here. I’m from a really small town. I speak Gagauzian, Russian, and English. That first one you’ve [probably] never heard of before. That’s because – if I wikipedia-ed this correctly – there are only like 26,000 people that speak it.
So how did you end up at Health Professions High in Sacramento?
I was enrolled in a bigger school, but a family friend who had previously [attended Health Professions High School] told my family about the [small] class sizes and how great the teachers are and my parents just fell in love with that idea. They were a little bit intimidated with me going to a big school, so it really comforted them knowing that I get to go to a small school and everybody would know me so I can be held accountable for my actions. It sort of sparked a drive in me because I knew everything I was doing was making a mark and making a difference.
Your senior class is really small right?
We have like 30 kids [in our senior class].
So how has that intimate setting shaped your high school experience?
I got to experience high school the way most kids [in Sacramento] probably don’t get to – I got to build myself a family here. There are only so many people you can build those bonds with, so [with a small class size], you just elevate yourself in relationships [with your peers] that can‘t be the same at a big school. You [also] have relationships with your teachers. When you come in class in the morning, they want to ask how you are; they’ll be nice and kind. They’ll be understanding – which I love and I haven’t heard of a lot from bigger schools.
There’s also less of an emphasis on testing?
That’s what I like about our school. It’s more [focused on] the students rather than on tests and letter grades. We’re more focused on the individual and creating a nice person at the end of the day.
And how has the health-industry theme of the school helped with your career choice?
Well, we have all our classes surrounding the health field: math, English, history, everything. We get to know what has happened in the health field and we get to experiment with [internship] opportunities. Most of our teachers [also] have great connections to colleges.
Was there an aspect of health care you learned from internships that you really enjoyed?
I love patient care and the bonds that you build. I was personally intimidated by having a patient come in and having to be that authority figure. At first, I was freezing up because I wanted to help people [but] I just didn’t know how to approach them the correct way. At my internship at UC Davis, I got to experience first hand how physical therapists, physicians, and nurses introduce themselves properly and build those bonds.
I actually sometimes get recognized by one of my patients. Sometimes when I’m walking into the hospital or I’m grocery shopping, they’re like: “hey Dmitri, what’s up!” They want to ask me questions or ask me how I’m dong. I feel like that’s a really great bond to have with patient because they care about you because they know that you care about them. And that’s what it’s all about!
So would you say, even though you received great support at school, the internship gave you an experience that couldn’t be replicated in a classroom?
It was something I couldn’t specifically learn at school because it’s one of those things where you have to have experience with in order to learn about it. You can learn about it all you want from the books – read how to introduce yourself. But you’ll never fully run out of that social awkwardness unless you actually do it.
Being in such a small class you probably know everybody. Do you know anyone who isn’t going into the medical field after graduation? How did they find their experience at Health Professions?
My best friend actually doesn’t want to be in the health field. She wants to eventually become a cop. But her having to go to this school influenced her and educated her in what she wants to do. She didn’t have to grow up going to medical school and just regretting it for the rest of her life because of the student loans. Even when she decided she doesn’t want to pursue the health field, she still stuck around because she just loves the atmosphere here. Everything you learn here makes you want to keep on learning.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Dmitri. All the best at UC Davis in the fall!