In high school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine third-year medical student Nick Forelli could not have dreamed of winning a cardiovascular research fellowship or working in a state-of-the-art laboratory. An all-around athlete who played football and baseball and was into weight training, he worked afternoons and weekends as a personal fitness trainer at an athletic club in Huntington Station, New York. He also assisted in his family’s plumbing business.
On one job, “I was lying on my back in the crawlspace of a middle school basement, fixing the irrigation system and it occurred to me, if I didn’t make a change, I’d be doing that for the rest of my life,” he said. While the work involved helping others, he knew he wanted something different. He began setting aside part of his pay for a college education.
From Wrench to Bench
Forelli recalls receiving a microscope as a gift when he was six. “I loved looking at everything I could find—from microbes in pond water to butterflies,” he said. As he entered the Bachelor of Applied Science track at Farmingdale State College, the notion of becoming a physician was in the back of his mind.
Among the courses he selected was anatomy. “In the class, there was a single slide on the citric acid cycle, and I was fascinated by the fact that a bunch of molecules undergoing these transformations are what make life tick,” he said. It was then he knew for certain that he wanted to pursue medicine.
After two years, Forelli transferred to Villanova University, where he served on the Executive Board of the Villanova Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, chaired the Biochemistry Mentoring Program and led an honors society. He also did undergraduate research in organic chemistry.
For extra cash, he became a tutor and teaching assistant in math and science, and, on weekends and holidays, he worked with personal training clients.