South Orangetown Central School District

“I’ve always known, even as a child, that I wanted to be a doctor,” says #ProudTZGrad Manuel Cabrera (’11), who graduated from Columbia University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. “All of my older brothers attended Columbia University, and I saw it as an extension of home. It was close to Rockland and, as a result of frequent visits to see my brothers, I already had a network of friends.”

Aside from his very personal connection to the school, Cabrera says that the prestige of Columbia’s pre-medicine program was a strong draw. “I wanted to attend a school that would prepare me to continue my education into medical school. What I appreciated most about college were the friendships I made and the challenges I had to overcome. Columbia had a rigorous schedule that pushed me to become more efficient, more patient and helped build my stamina–all skills that have helped me reach my ultimate goal of becoming a doctor.”

When choosing a medical school, Cabrera sought out programs that exuded a passion for caring for underserved communities and offered the most hands-on clinical experience. “I knew immediately that Temple was the place for me because they are proud to say that they are a safety net hospital. Temple treats the poorest, sickest, and often uninsured, patients in the surrounding North Philadelphia area,” he explains. “Unfortunately, as a hospital system, this means resources can be scarce. However, I was able to get involved in ways medical students around the country might not be able to.”

Cabrera graduated from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in 2019 and is a first-year internal medicine resident at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC. “I’m finally a doctor, but still undergoing three additional years of training before I am fully licensed and can practice independently. My goal is to work as a hospitalist in an academic hospital so that I can practice medicine and be able to teach both residents and medical students in hospital and classroom settings.”

Knowing that he wanted a career in medicine helped Cabrera make the most of his time at Tappan Zee High School. “There were many high school experiences that helped me pursue that goal. TZ offers many AP science and math classes which taught me concepts I still use to this day. I also played various sports at TZ and was inspired to do research with one of the orthopedic surgeons for the Philadelphia Flyers because of the time I spent with the trainers doing rehab before practice,” he recalls. “What really helped me develop the skills and values that prepared me for college, medical school, and ultimately, a career as a doctor, were the extracurricular activities. I learned the value of teamwork, accountability and leadership through my time playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse. Through programs like Buddy Ball Soccer and Tappan Zee Youth Lacrosse, I developed an appreciation for giving back to the community. Lastly, through programs like Peer Leadership, VAASA, and tutoring, I honed my skills as an educator and came to realize my passion for mentorship.”

Cabrera is grateful for what he has achieved. “Becoming a doctor has truly been a dream come true. I am fortunate to work in such a meaningful and rewarding profession,” he says, acknowledging that the path has been long and difficult, at times. “There are many stressful nights where you feel overwhelmed and doubt yourself, but if you stay focused on the ultimate goal and surround yourself with a great support system, you make it through and look back with only fond memories.”

For current TZHS students interested in pursuing a career in medicine, Cabrera offers guidance. “Your high school resume should be full of experiences you can speak passionately about and that have made you grow as a person. This is much more important than listing research or volunteer work you did just to check a box or to ‘look good,’” he advises. “ Be your own person and do not compare yourself to others. The path to becoming a doctor can be competitive and trying, but staying true to yourself is what will carry you to success.”

#ProudTZGrad Manuel Cabrera, a doctor at GWU hospital