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Tara Formisano personifies social justice

Tara Formisano '13Raise your hand if you understand the phytochemical inhibition of MRP 8/14-induced pro-atherosclerotic inflammation in human monocytes.

Okay. What about the art and politics of fairytales?

Tara Formisano’s hand went up both times. The ambitious 22-year-old from Ridgefield, Conn. not only grasps the utterly disparate topics, she has authored award-winning papers on both, and a lot of other research papers, too. A pre-med, integrative health science major who plans to be listed as one of the world’s 100 most influential women, Formisano graduates this spring with a double minor in gender studies and French and a 3.955 GPA.

“Being a doctor is my calling,” Tara said with conviction. “It is what I am meant to do.”

Mixing gender studies with medicine, her studies at Stetson have led her to work with midwives and children, dissect cadavers, conduct clinical trials, do research and health education. She traveled to Panama with Stetson’s Global Medical Brigade to deliver much-needed health care in poor rural areas to pregnant women as young as 12 and as old as 45. The experience changed her life.

“There was no doctor’s office just down the road for these women and the nearest hospital was six hours away. They have no cars; they travel on horseback or on foot,” she said. “All these pregnant women needed care for themselves and their baby and without us, I’m not sure they would have gotten any.”

“This helped fuel my passion to become an OB/GYN and practice internationally to give women the attention and care they need. To me, to have no access or possibility to achieve wellness is a violation of basic human rights.”

Formisano has garnered numerous awards, honors and fellowships at Stetson, presented her research and findings at national and undergraduate conferences, has been president of the Stetson chapter of the National Organization for Women for two years, was named a national scholar-athlete as catcher on Stetson’s softball team and is a commencement speaker.

“Tara’s genuine commitment and passion for helping others, strong personal and leadership skills, experience in the healthcare field, and superior academic accomplishments make her an extraordinary candidate for a career in medicine,” said Professor Michele Skelton, Hollis chair of Health and Wellness in the Department of Integrative Health Science. “It is truly an honor to work with her and I am confident she will make a positive and significant contribution to the medical community.”

Formisano exemplifies Stetson’s core values of personal and social responsibility, according to Professor Diane Everett, sociology and anthropology chair. “She is an exemplary scholar-servant-leader who is engaged with and engages the Stetson community in fundamental ways. Her strength, her passion and her commitment to social justice are boundless and contagious.”

Formisano traces her passion for the health field to when she was 12 and her sister was diagnosed with an illness. It sparked study and advocacy and “from there, my interest in research and medicine took off.”

Two main things made her what she is today, she said.

“One is definitely my dad. He never let me settle for anything but my best and always encouraged me to keep challenging myself, to keep bettering myself,” she said. “The other is my mom. She helped me grow the tough skin that I have. With that tough skin, nothing phases me. I am resilient. I can take anything life throws at me and I will persevere.”

After graduation, Formisano is headed to New York City to work for a pharmaceutical research firm before heading to Chicago’s Midwestern University’s master’s program in biomedical sciences.

By Ronald Williamson