Vanessa Arientyl was born in Quebec, the daughter of Haitian immigrants. Her first language was French and she learned English at the age of 6, when she moved with her family to New Jersey.

Arientyl recalls an entry in her fifth-grade yearbook that asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her response was, “I want to be a surgeon to help people. Or an Olympic gymnast.”

Arientyl attended Rutgers University, where she ran women’s track and field. The summer of her sophomore year brought Arientyl to the west coast for the Keck School of Medicine of USC Bridging the Gaps Summer Research Program, an eight-week program that provides students the opportunity to gain exposure to the research and clinical programs at the Keck School, addressing the underrepresentation of minority students within medicine and the biological sciences.

Because of Arientyl’s positive experience with the program, the Keck School was the only west coast medical school she applied to. Now four years later, Arientyl is poised to become one of the first two Bridging the Gap students graduating from the Keck School.

After graduation, Arientyl is headed to the Montefiore Medical Center, the university hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York for a general surgery residency.

Arientyl is planning to celebrate graduation with her family, many of whom will be flying in from New Jersey to Los Angeles for the first time.

— Cynthia Smith