Sarah Rupchak, a Carlow University senior biology major with a
concentration in perfusion technology, is serious about science.
She's just as serious about changing lives.
Rupchak is a chemistry tutor, a student in the Honors Program,
and a member of both the biology and chemistry honor societies.
She's also mentored young girls as part of Carlow's Strong Women, Strong Girls chapter, and is currently immersed in a 17-month
clinical training at UPMC Shadyside Hospital. It's the final
portion of Carlow's perfusion program—one of only 21 such programs
in North America.
A perfusionist operates the cardiopulmonary bypass machine
during heart surgeries and heart and lung transplantations. It
means Rupchak will not just be changing lives. She'll be saving
Rupchak decided on perfusion technology after attending the 2014
international conference of the Society for the Advancement of
Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.
"Without that conference," says Rupchak, "I wouldn't know what's
out there. It made biology real. It made me think, 'wow, I can
actually do this.'"
Rupchak was able to attend the conference thanks to support from
Carlow's Mary Ann Sestili, PhD, Fund for Experiential Learning.
Sestili, a former health scientist administrator at the National
Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, graduated
from Carlow (then Mount Mercy College) in 1961 with degrees in
biology, chemistry, and French. She feels strongly about providing
enriching, eye-opening experiences for all students—particularly
for those who may not otherwise have the funds to do so.
"Dr. Sestili proved to me that, as a first-generation
college student, I can overcome any obstacle and be successful,"
says Rupchak. "More importantly, I can make a real difference. I
can help save lives."