As a child, Justin Olivera, MD student ’25, dreamed of becoming a doctor, just like his father. Now in his second year of medical school, he’s well on his way to fulfilling that dream. With help and encouragement from his mentor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Olivera recently earned one of 10 national Medical Student Diversity Scholarships from the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS).
Olivera’s mentor, Brendon M. Stiles, MD, Professor and Chief, Thoracic Surgery and Surgical Oncology, Department of Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery, Montefiore Einstein, and Associate Director, Surgical Services, Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center, encouraged Olivera to pursue the diversity scholarship and supported him through the rigorous application process.
“Justin is an amazing student and person,” Dr. Stiles said. “His enthusiasm for thoracic surgery is infectious. He deserves this award, and I am thrilled that it will help relieve some of his financial burden as he pursues his ambitions.”
Olivera’s path to thoracic surgery wound through an apple orchard. On an apple-picking outing in 2021, Olivera and some friends bumped into a cardiothoracic nurse practitioner, who recognized them as Einstein medical students. She asked if any of them were interested in cardiothoracic surgery.
“Everyone I was with looked at me, because they knew I was interested,” Olivera said.
The nurse connected him with Joseph J. DeRose, MD, Chief, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Montefiore Einstein. Given Olivera’s interest in thoracic oncology, Dr. DeRose referred Olivera to Dr. Stiles, who volunteered to mentor the promising student.