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Noteworthy graduate: Dr. Sara Guevara, family medicine physician

New York Teacher
Sara Guevera
Erica Berger

Dr. Sara Guevara built on the mentoring and support she received in Brooklyn public schools to become a family medicine physician who is working in underserved communities in New York City.

Sara Guevara was introduced to the health care field when, as a 5-year-old growing up in Brooklyn, she often translated for Spanish-speaking family and friends at the doctor's office or hospital. "It definitely influenced me," said the third-year medical resident at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. It also helped her decide "to return to New York and work in the underserved communities where resources aren't as plentiful." The daughter of Honduran immigrants, Guevara credits her 3rd-grade public school teacher with steering her toward higher academic pursuits, starting with the gifted program in elementary school and continuing through her years at Brown University, where she received a bachelor's degree in 2011 and a medical degree in 2017. "She always believed in me and became my lifetime mentor," said Guevara, who practices family medicine at Montefiore and at a nearby clinic. Between degrees, Guevara had a two-year research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland that focused on the social determinants of health. This summer, she has been accepted for a fellowship focused on health care policies.

I grew up in Borough Park, right by PS 160, where I started pre-K in 1993. My parents had moved here from Honduras about 35 years ago and I was the oldest of three children living at home. I have an older brother who didn't live at home, as well as a younger brother and a younger sister.

In 3rd grade, something happened that deeply affected my academic career. My teacher, Donna Simone, saw I needed more of a challenge. She encouraged my mom to have me apply for the gifted program at PS 176 and I was accepted.

Then when a new student who spoke Spanish joined our class, Ms. Simone asked me to sit with her and guide her. When I won our class science fair, she reminded me I would now have to compete against the rest of the grade. I was nervous, but she motivated me to go for it. At the end of the year, I gave her a picture of us together. It turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

After 4th and 5th grade at PS 176, I went to Edward B. Shallow JHS for 6th through 8th grade. I had an art teacher there, Susan Molishever, who, besides helping me learn those techniques and skills, took on a mentor role outside of class. She was somebody I could trust. I consulted her when making the decision of what high school to go to. She would listen to me and a lot of my classmates and provide helpful feedback and guidance.

I also had a history teacher in junior high, Anthony Fontana, and the way he portrayed history was very motivating. He was engaging and hands-on and had very creative ways of helping us to understand the different areas and time periods. Plus, he was always available after class to discuss historic events that weren't being covered in the classroom.

I went to Bard Early College HS in Manhattan. Professors from Bard College would come to the high school, so we did high school courses for 9th and 10th grade and then two years of college credit classes in 11th and 12th grade. When I graduated in 2007, I had a two-year associate's degree as well as my high school degree.

My physics teacher in high school, Arturo Hale, was an excellent teacher in terms of simplifying the concepts, and he also played a mentor role. He knew I was interested in pursuing the health field. He told me research was important and helped me find my first research position after I graduated, connecting me to a really great program with the Harlem Children's Society.

I would rate my public school education as top-notch, but one of the best things that came out of it was my friendship with my 3rd-grade teacher. Ms. Simone and I stayed in contact during college. When I would come back to Brooklyn, we would get together for dinner and I'd tell her how medical school was going and the challenges I was facing. She attended both my undergraduate and medical school graduations, and she continues to support and motivate me. She is such an example of how you can influence your students more than the year you spend with them in the classroom.

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