TAMPA, Fla. – A first-generation college graduate will attend medical school on the Army’s dime.
Paloma Belle Irizarry of Brandon will start classes at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine this fall. She was commissioned Saturday as a second lieutenant and will receive a monthly stipend of more than $2,000 while the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program pays the tuition, books and fees associated with her four years of medical school.
Irizarry’s father served in the Army for 20 years. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps and serve the country the best way I could,” she said. “This scholarship provides me that opportunity while letting me concentrate on my studies by not having to worry about student loans.”
As the first person in her family to attend college, Irizarry, 22, has set her sights high. “My goals are to excel in school and be the best military physician I can be.” Irizarry, whose family is originally from the Dominican Republic, graduated from the University of South Florida in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Tampa Medical Recruiter Capt. Steven Fields said Irizarry’s experience as a military child sets a good foundation for her career as an Army physician. “As someone who grew up around the military, she will have a unique perspective when treating soldiers and their family members,” Fields said.
HPSP scholarship recipients attend the school of their choice. The Army pays 100 percent of tuition for graduate-level healthcare degrees for any accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychology or optometry program in the United States or Puerto Rico. Recipients participate in military and Army healthcare team training during summer breaks and are promoted to the rank of captain upon graduation.