In 1976, Louis J. Modica helped lay the building blocks for an international medical school in Grenada. More than 40 years later, Owen Cole will pursue his dream of becoming a physician as the second-ever recipient of the Louis Modica Memorial Scholarship.
“Becoming a doctor is something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life, ever since I can remember,” Mr. Cole said. “It’s inspiring because Mr. Modica had this plan, and all these years later, I get to pursue my dream under his name.”
The full-tuition scholarship recipient grew up in Bay Shore, NY, in the same village that Mr. Modica, a real estate developer, helped revitalize in the 1960s. Mr. Cole graduated from nearby St. John the Baptist High School and also teaching religious education to sixth- and seventh-graders at St. Patrick’s Parish in town. A two-week mission trip to Chaclacayo, Peru, after his junior year in high school only strengthened Mr. Cole’s drive toward a career in medicine. There, he learned under Dr. Anthony Lazzara in the Hogar San Francisco de Asis, a facility that treats destitute and sick children and young adults.
In particular, he recalled a 14-year-old boy named Victor who was born with one leg and no arms—as a result of, it’s believed, a failed home abortion. Nevertheless, Victor grew to “do everything that you or I could do, all because of Dr. Tony.” More than 30 years ago, Dr. Lazzara left an academic position at Emory University in Georgia to treat underprivileged children in the developing world through the Villa La Paz Foundation.
“It was incredible to see how humble Dr. Tony was,” Mr. Cole said. “He’s given up his life to treat these kids that otherwise wouldn’t be treated.”
Mr. Cole went on to attend the University of Virginia, from which he graduated in 3½ years with a degree in environmental science. After completing his studies, he remained in Charlottesville to volunteer in UVA Medical Center’s intensive care unit and surgical department, in preparation for medical school.
Then came the call about becoming the second-ever Modica Scholarship recipient.
“I was blown away,” Mr. Cole said. “It’s an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait to start my medical career, and I’m really looking forward to living in such a unique environment.”
Mr. Cole will travel to Grenada in January to begin Term 1 at SGU. In addition to pursuing a career in pediatrics, he hopes to provide care for needy communities abroad through an organization such as Doctors Without Borders.
– Brett Mauser