Joseph Biga

Joseph Biga Premed '15/PharmD '18 on How the Honors Program Helped Him Succeed

December 07, 2016

  • The School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program is so much more than a group of students with high GPAs. (Though it is that too.) It’s a well-rounded program involving independent research projects that allow its members to cultivate deeper research skills and understanding, and then some.

    For fresh take on what it’s like to be in this program, look no further than 2015 graduate Joseph Biga.

    Joseph earned his Bachelor of Science in Premedical and Health Sciences in 2015 and is now pursuing his PharmD on our Worcester campus through our accelerated program.

    Joseph identified the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program as a way to leverage his high academic performance and stand apart from the pack. "Being a member of the Honors Program was a lot of work," say Joseph. "But, it is also the most satisfying experience that I took away from my time at MCPHS-Boston."

    For Joseph, the mentorship he received through the Honors Program helped him grow as a student and future healthcare professional. "I cannot say enough kind words about all of the faculty members with whom I had the privilege of working with," says Joseph.

    We sat down with Joseph to hear more insight into the program.

    Why did you choose to apply?

    I applied to Honors Program as a means of solidifying my academic integrity. I knew that getting into medical school would be a difficult proposition, even with a 4.0 GPA, given the competitive nature of the profession. I saw the Honors Program as a real opportunity to distinguish myself from the tens of thousands of other applicants I knew I would be competing in the future.

    I also applied to the Honors Program because I saw it as an opportunity to get involved with an on-campus organization. The University has a lot of great clubs and activities and I would encourage all students to explore all of them. However, what sets the Honors Program apart from the general body of student clubs is its sense of community and exclusivity. Since only a select number of students are accepted into the program, it does not take long to learn everybody’s name; neither does it take long to find individualized attention from faculty mentors.

    What was it like to work closely with School of Arts and Sciences faculty through the Honors Program?

    My initial interest stemmed primarily from the opportunity to develop a close working relationship with multiple professors within the program. Dr. Hart and Dr. DeMasi always emphasized the importance of forming strong professional relationships with professors. The relationships in this program are different than the typical relationships that are developed between a student and a professor. It is a partnership. While working on projects, professors tend to treat their Honors Program students more like colleagues than actual students.

    Tell us about one of these experiences.

    I had the privilege of working with several faculty members, including Dr. Dacey, Dr. DeMasi, and Dr. Hart. Each faculty member has something different to offer. This is why it is particularly important to work through the entire program and to complete multiple projects in multiple disciplines. Every faculty member has a set of rigorous standards he or she will expect students to meet. The challenge of meeting these standards may often seem daunting; however, it is these standards that help each student get the most out of his or her experience in the Honors Program.

    What is something students can expect of professors in the Honors Program?

    Constructive feedback. Since the students in the Honors Program have proven themselves to be some of the most academically gifted pupils, their projects are often very impressive. However, nothing is ever perfect and every faculty member that a student works with will always take the time to offer constructive feedback.

    Tell us about a project you worked on through the Honors Program.

    One experience that stands out in my mind is the time I spent working with Dr. Marie Dacey, Professor of Psychology, on a Mind/Body medicine research project. It was by far the most challenging. When it started, we had planned on it taking three months to complete. A year and a half later, we concluded our work by presenting a poster at the annual New England Psychological Association (NEPA) conference held in Lewiston, ME.

    During the project, Dr. Dacey’s mentorship went far beyond the realm of coaching the academic and technical skills necessary to complete an original research project.

    How so?

    Dr. Dacey was instrumental in getting us through several technical roadblocks. She did not resolve errors in the project by telling us what we did wrong and how we had to fix it. Instead, Dr. Dacey preached perseverance and encouragement by doing what any great mentor should do; challenging us to challenge ourselves.

    Why do you think mentorship is so important in the healthcare field in general?

    There is only so much one can learn from a textbook. Textbooks can explain how cancer develops from a breakdown of the complex cellular machinery within a cell. However, no matter how many times you read them, textbooks cannot prepare you for the challenges you will face in dealing with a petrified cancer patient or the team of providers charged with treating him or her.

    There is an endless need for providers to collaborate among one another. The lessons that can be learned through mentorship are becoming more and more valuable each day.

    Tell us more about this.

    Healthcare used to be a paternalistic hierarchy; the doctor was always right and the patient who refused to follow the doctor’s orders was forced to accept the stigma associated with noncompliance; today; however, healthcare is delivered by an interdisciplinary team of providers working with each other and the patient to find both the most efficacious and the most socially and culturally acceptable forms of treatment.

    The need for providers to collaborate among one another is endless and is growing at an unpredictably high rate. However, what is predictable is the fact that the lessons that can be learned through mentorship, like my experience with Dr. Dacey, are becoming more and more valuable each day.

    The School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program is open to second year students on our Boston campus, and offers unique opportunities for academic enrichment and mentorship.