Student Feature: Taylor Manzella, OMS-II

Taylor Manzella is a second-year medical student at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is the youngest of seven children, raised in the small central Texas town of Belton. Although none of her siblings nor her parents are in the medical profession, she credits her experiences as a child that drew her to medicine. “I underwent a series of reconstructive and preventative hip surgeries for hip dysplasia in my adolescence and through that experience, I fell in love with Medicine,” says Taylor. “Specifically, Dr. Sucato’s team at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children showed me how big of an impact a physician can have on a patient’s life; from improving their pain, comforting them and gaining their trust, and providing them with the best possible care, I knew that was what I wanted to do one day.”

After graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Taylor took two years off of school in order to work as a research assistant in the Leukemia Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. During her time in research, she assisted with clinical trials for Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia patients. “This was by far one of the most meaningful and impactful experiences I have had, and am so grateful to have done something at this caliber prior to starting medical school,” says Taylor. “MD Anderson is truly second to none, being a part of such a multi-faceted hospital that incorporates personalized medicine and research into patient care was a very rewarding experience.” Taylor expresses that the wisdom and experience she gained from working under her supervising research scientist, Dr. Marina Konopleva, MD, has and will be most influential in her time at Burrell College.

Although raised in central Texas, Taylor’s mother is from El Paso, Texas, which was the initial draw for her to apply to Burrell College, but it was her interview experience that solidified her decision to attend. “On my interview day, I felt really connected to and heard by my faculty interviewers, it felt like they were genuinely interested in my pursuit of medicine, and that was something I hadn’t necessarily experienced at other interview days,” Taylor recalls. Despite only being in her second year of medical school, Taylor is an active member of multiple student organizations, including serving as the current president of the Burrell chapter of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), chapter community outreach chair of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOOG) and chapter secretary of the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine(AOASM), and member of the American Women’s Medical Association (AMWA). She is also a member of the Protect NM Food Insecurity Subcommittee, where she has volunteered her time to help address the lack of access to food in the local Las Cruces community. “My experience in the food insecurity subcommittee has been really rewarding, last year I helped coordinate a food drive to donate food to Casa De Peregrinos here in Las Cruces, where we were able to donate over 800 lbs of food to the community,” emphasizes Taylor.

Taylor says that her best experience at Burrell so far has been participating in the standardized patient program. The standardized patient program is a unique opportunity for medical students to practice their professionalism and patient interactions in simulated settings. Actors of all ages pose as patients with a wide array of “symptoms.” Our students treat the actors as they would a real patient and do their best to determine the correct diagnosis and prescribe the proper treatment. “-As the class of 2024 entered medical school in the thick of a pandemic, getting to safely interact with our SPs [standardized patients] was very exciting and is always a great reminder of why I am doing this, to build relationships with patients and learn how to provide them with the best possible care,” says Taylor.

Currently, Taylor’s top interest is to pursue her residency training in clinical oncology. “I have a long family history of cancer and have always found the specialty particularly fascinating and extremely challenging,” says Taylor. “I am really drawn to having close relationships with my patients, and in oncology that is extremely important, as you are guiding patients through such difficult times in their lives. I am also extremely drawn to the rapid pace of change and research in the field that allows practitioners to constantly provide cancer patients with the most up-to-date and specialized medicine for their specific diagnosis and genetic mutations. Seeing how integrated science and medicine are in the field of oncology, and the fact that the oncology team requires so many moving pieces from PCPs, surgeons, radiologists, and the medical oncologist is really appealing to me, and I am excited to get into rotations to further this interest of mine.” Taylor hopes to one day return to MD Anderson Cancer Center where she spent time as a research assistant, this time as a practicing oncologist.

Taylor would like to extend her sincerest thanks to her undergraduate professor and research mentor, Dr. Mark Wallert, Ph.D., and Dr. Andy McDavid, MD, her physician. “I am forever grateful for these two influential professionals,” says Taylor. “I also would like to thank my family and my husband, for supporting me in becoming a physician.”