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Cover Story

November 21, 2005
Volume 83, Number 47

Worries Of A Med School Dream Deferred

Senior premed Eric Broussard, temporarily at USC, is determined to graduate from Xavier

Amanda Yarnell

The process of applying to medical school is complex enough to drive even the most overachieving college senior to bouts of nail-biting and hair-pulling. Most premed hopefuls wouldn’t even think of attempting to navigate this daunting process without the help of their college’s premedical program office. But Eric Broussard, a chemistry major from now-deserted Xavier University of Louisiana, in uptown New Orleans, is refusing to allow his dream of attending medical school to be swept away by Hurricane Katrina.

Broussard fled New Orleans in his eight-year-old Jeep Wrangler less than 36 hours before the storm hit the city. He had completed just one week of his senior year at Xavier. And like many of his fellow students, Broussard was already looking forward to entering medical school next fall: Xavier—a small, historically black, Catholic school—sends more African Americans on to medical school than any other college in the nation.

Today, Xavier remains shuttered; the storm ripped the roofs off buildings, flooded the library, and left the campus mired in silt and mold. Xavier’s closure sent Broussard scrambling to keep alive his dream of starting med school next year. He is now living at home with his mother and younger brother in Culver City, just north of Los Angeles.

“I spent my first day back home frantically calling around to find a place to go to school this semester,” he says. Several schools couldn’t guarantee the classes he needs; others couldn’t provide housing or would take him far away from home, something Broussard’s mother just wasn’t ready for after Katrina. After a few days of trying, he accepted a spot at the University of Southern California, less than an hour’s drive from home.

“USC has really welcomed me,” Broussard says. USC waived tuition and gave him a free meal plan. But he was unable to enroll in any of the classes he needs to graduate. None of the upper level chemistry courses he needs were offered at USC this semester, and other classes he needs were already full. Instead, he’s fulfilling a few of his electives and doing undergraduate research with USC chemistry professor Amy M. Barrios on the mechanism of a gold-based treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. He’s also working in a lab in USC’s neuroscience department to pay for gas.

Before he fled New Orleans, Broussard and his roommate moved their belongings to the second floor of the apartment they had just moved into in Metairie, just blocks from Lake Pontchartrain. And although his landlord has offered to cut him a deal on the rent because of water damage to the first floor, Broussard can’t afford to keep the apartment and not live in it. “So I broke the lease. I applied for FEMA, but they aren’t giving me any assistance. All my stuff will be either given to the next tenants or thrown out on the street, because I don’t have enough money to go back down to New Orleans and collect my belongings.”

Broussard is still hopeful that he might be able to enter medical school next year, despite the fact that he is behind in his class requirements and Xavier’s premed office is shuttered. Xavier officials say they hope to have students return to New Orleans by January, although damage to the campus is so severe that Xavier students will likely have to both live and take classes at other universities. Xavier also has announced plans to get students back on track by adding an additional semester next summer.

Broussard credits Xavier chemistry professor J. W. Carmichael Jr., who directs the university’s premedical programs, with distributing information about what Xavier premeds could do to keep their medical school applications moving forward. For instance, Carmichael’s office helped Broussard reassemble portions of his application materials that were lost in the flooding.

Broussard admits, however, that “a lot of things are still up in the air.” Tuition is a big problem: Broussard’s family has already paid for his fall semester at Xavier and has not been able to ascertain whether the money will be refunded or even put toward the additional semester he’ll need to complete to graduate next summer.

In addition, many of his chemistry professors may not be back in January. Twelve of Xavier’s 28 chemistry faculty members—including Broussard’s research adviser, Ralph Isovitsch—have been laid off.

Despite these hurdles, Broussard is eager to return to New Orleans. “I still want to graduate from Xavier,” he says.



Jack Stocker, University of New Orleans
Ulrike Diebold and Larry Byers, Tulane University
Jerry Merchant, PPG
Eric Broussard, Xavier University
Cheryl Stevens, Xavier University, and Ed Stevens, University of New Orleans
Saundra Y. McGuire, Isiah M. Warner, and Luigi G. Marzilli, Louisiana State University
William L. Strayham, DuPont
N. Dale Ledford, University of Southern Mississippi
Gerald R. Ehrman, DuPont
Bruce C. Gibb, University of New Orleans
Nitsa and Zeev Rosenzweig’s group, University of New Orleans

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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