Two PCLT Students With an Eye to the Future!

Monday, March 23, 2020
Priscila Cunha and Melvin Larker

Priscila Cunha and Melvin Larker 

Excerpt from an article published March 20, 2020 on the Med School Blog

Kind and supportive classmates. Inspiring mentors. Life-changing interactions with patients. These are all facets of the Duke University medical school experience that graduating students will take with them when they move to their residency programs later this year.

We interviewed five members of the Class of 2020 about their favorite memories from their time at Duke and their aspirations for the future. The two PLCT class members are highlighted here. 


Priscila CunhaPriscila Cunha

Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Specialty: Pediatrics

Match: Emory University

Q: What inspired you to become a doctor?

A: Unlike many of my peers I did not always know I wanted to become a doctor. What first brought me to medicine was my interest in science and the wonders of the human body. At the time I was still quite young and did not yet fully understand that being a doctor involved so much more than that. As I decided to explore medicine volunteering with patients in a clinic by taking their vital signs and initial histories I realized how rewarding it is to be able to help others and to have their trust in such delicate aspects of their lives. I would say the connection I felt with patients is what really made me decided to pursue medicine.A;

Q: In what area of medicine do you hope to practice?

A: This was a bit difficult for me to choose as I enjoyed working with both adults and children in a primary care setting.  The decision ultimately came to what brings me most joy, and that is working with children, so I have chosen to go into general pediatrics.

Q: What is your favorite memory from medical school at Duke?

A: It’s hard to choose among so many, but if I had to choose a clinical one it would be the birth of a child whose mother I followed in the Centering Pregnancy Program, which is group prenatal care. In this program, health appointments occur throughout pregnancy with the same providers and the same group of other pregnant women. I got to know the patients and families intimately throughout nine months of appointments; therefore, it was a magical moment to be able to not only witness the children I cared for in the womb come to this world but also be there for the families. One particularly rewarding moment was when one of my patients had a labor complication, and I was there to support her. Her partner later told me that when entering the room and seeing the sea of stranger faces he felt comforted by the fact that a familiar one, mine, was there with them.

Q: How do you hope to impact patient care and/or research in your career?

A: I’m originally from Brazil. My family and I moved here when I was 18, and my mother is not fluent in English. As a result I have accompanied her to many health appointments. Watching this once fierce and independent woman become helpless in the face of a health care system not designed for non-English speakers was what first made me realize I wanted to enter healthcare to serve the Hispanic community and non-English speakers. As I learned more about health disparities and got interested in the longitudinal aspect of primary care I knew I wanted to work in general pediatrics helping the Hispanic community with many of the challenges they face in accessing care.


Melvin LarkerMelvin Larker

Hometown: Prince George’s County, MD

Specialty: Cardiology

Match: Johns Hopkins University

Q: What inspired you to become a doctor?

A: Becoming a doctor, for me, was a calling.  I have overcome many trials and tribulations throughout my life that fueled my passion for medicine. Being a patient in this healthcare system as a young child, and remembering the gentleness, the compassion, and the care that some doctors exuded towards me inspired me to become a doctor. I want to impact patients just as those physicians did for me.

Q: In what area of medicine do you hope to practice?

A: I plan to practice Cardiology in the future. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in our country, and underrepresented individuals and groups are impacted disproportionately. I plan to care for all patients and work vigorously to impact health outcomes.

Q: What is your favorite memory from med school at Duke?

A: I love DUKE! I have so many amazing experiences and memories from my time here at Duke. From working with amazing attendings, residents, and fellows to interacting with great patients. I specifically recall a patient who was dealing with tremendous financial hardships while battling numerous illnesses; she just wanted to give up on everything. After a few tears had been shed, we were able to make great strides in her health.  The mere act of being personable and empathic and how that impacted her outlook on life and health will forever be one of my favorite memories here at Duke.

Q: How do you hope to impact patient care and/or research in your career?

A: I love interacting with patients. While my career will be focused around the care I provide to patients, I hope to impact patient care by focusing on improving representation and Health Disparities. Representation matters – bringing diversity to the team, and different perspectives to many topics can impact the care we provide to our patients.  Differences in health outcomes and health disparities remain a challenge. I plan to continue research efforts in not only identifying health disparities but providing actionable ways in which we can attain health equity.