New Mexico State University (NMSU) graduate Muhammad Sufyan will begin classes at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) in August 2019, making him the first student officially admitted to BCOM through the Osteopathic Medicine Pathway Program (OMPP).

The OMPP was officially launched in 2016 as an agreement between NMSU and BCOM in an effort to encourage students from New Mexico, west Texas, and Arizona to become doctors and to eventually stay and practice medicine within the region. Undergraduate students accepted to the program are guaranteed admission to BCOM upon graduation if they maintain a 3.3 grade point average and score at least a 500 on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). They can earn a baccalaureate degree in any major of their choosing, and during their time in the program, they also receive mentorship from advisors, medical students, and physicians.

Sufyan moved to Las Cruces from Pakistan in the fifth grade. He attended Desert Hills Elementary School, Sierra Middle School, and then enrolled at Arrowhead Early College High School where he first heard about OMPP.

“In high school, I started volunteering through National Honor Society at the soup kitchen and other places and those experiences sparked my interest in helping people. My uncle is a doctor and I saw him helping patients, so when one of my professors suggested I go into medicine, I thought it might be a good fit. I shadowed Dr. Edward Hernandez and it was a good experience. During my time there, one of the other doctors left to join the Doctors Without Borders program and that sparked my interest as well.”

Sufyan was admitted to the first cohort of students accepted to OMPP in the fall of 2016, but since he managed to complete his degree in biochemistry in just three years, he will be starting courses at BCOM a year ahead of his peers. Some of his memorable experiences in the program during his undergraduate years include observing osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) techniques, learning anatomy on BCOM’s hi-fidelity manikins, and participating in one of the “DO for a Day” events BCOM regularly hosts. He credits his NMSU advisor, Victoria Banuelos, and BCOM’s Acting Director of Admissions Courtney Lewis with helping him navigate through his undergraduate years and the transition into medical school.

“OMPP was founded with the BCOM mission in mind,” Banuelos said. “Muhammad was a perfect fit because he is from a minority and because he is from Las Cruces. His wants to help the community  because he sees first-hand the type of health care needs that this community and this area require. He is hard-working and very dedicated. As for his three years at NMSU, he worked on more than just the basics. He worked toward taking harder courses that have provided him a stronger foundation and prepared him for the future rigors of medical education.”

While he waits for classes to begin, Sufyan is working at a local neurology clinic. In his rare free time, he enjoys playing video games, exploring new computer apps, and watching Game of Thrones. He has not decided what type of medicine he would like to practice but has an interest in neurology, ophthalmology, and family medicine. He is eager to begin medical school and is most looking forward to learning OMM techniques that he believes will be beneficial when he serves for Doctors Without Borders in rural areas that may lack medical resources.

Sufyan encourages other young students to apply to the OMPP program and take advantage of the opportunities it affords to explore the field of medicine. “I would say I was less stressed out being in this program because I didn’t have to worry as much about getting into medical school during my undergraduate years,” he said. “I would tell other students interested in the program to just be yourself and keep an open mind. Try out different things. You get a lot of new experiences in college and some may end up choosing a different path, but you won’t regret the opportunities this program opens up for you.”

Courtney Lewis from BCOM’s Office of Admissions noted that Sufyan’s motivation and dedication made him an ideal fit for the OMPP. “Muhammad has proven throughout his time in the OMPP that he is a self-driven and focused student,” she said. “Throughout the program, he managed his time effectively, followed guidance given to him by his advisor, and participated well with the other students. These are all vital characteristics we want to see evidence of in all of our incoming BCOM students. We look forward to him officially joining the BCOM Class of 2023.”