Former auto technician Russ Pizzo’s decision to study medicine at UB was one of the best—and most astonishing—he’s ever made.
In his second year at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Pizzo, 36, bearded and tattooed, could be the poster child for nontraditional students. “I don’t think there is anyone as surprised as I am,” he says. “I mean, I barely graduated high school.”
He was, however, a skilled mechanic, working at a Rochester, N.Y., garage during high school, and moving up the ranks at a Porsche/Audi dealership after getting an associate degree in auto service. But after almost a decade fixing high-end cars, he felt unhappy and restless. When he started hanging out with some neighbors who were nurses, something about their stories clicked.
“Hearing what they were doing planted the seed of going into health care,” he says. “As strange as it may sound, I saw some parallels to auto service.” The next domino fell midway through Pizzo’s second semester studying nursing at Monroe Community College, where he met an internist who would become a mentor. “The very first time I shadowed him, I had a ‘eureka’ moment. It was just an overwhelming feeling of ‘this is the guy I want to be, this is what I want to do.’”
Pizzo went on to earn a BS in microbiology and immunology from the University of Rochester, then entered medical school at UB in 2015. Through all of his unexpected detours, he is relishing the clinical experiences most. “The whole thing for me is working with patients—that’s what I really love,” he says.
INTERNATIONAL FIESTA Every February, after months of grueling practices and rehearsals, international student clubs take over the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre for the popular, student-run International Fiesta talent competition. The invariably sold-out show treats audiences to a night of traditional and contemporary dance choreographies from around the world, with medleys incorporating everything from bhangra and salsa to K-pop.
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“To ban the uncomfortable is to disarm students who must face reality.”
Award-winning director and cinematographer Sama Waham, who is currently a visiting assistant professor of media study at UB, collected more hardware this past fall, winning top honors at the 2016 Alexandria International Film Festival in Alexandria, Egypt, for her documentary “Sing for Me.” Born in Baghdad and raised in the United States, Waham created the doc as a virtual conversation with her late grandfather, using his voice from a forgotten audiocassette to explore ideas of nostalgia and cultural identity. The film was shown on campus last fall as part of THE SCREENS, a new screening and guest lecture series hosted by media study graduate students.
Ebony G. Patterson’s myth-busting installation “Dead Treez” at the UB Art Gallery explores visibility, class, race and gender through Jamaica’s dancehall subculture—a refuge for the country’s more disenfranchised citizens. Patterson uses mannequins wrapped in color-saturated, embellished textiles and gorgeous floor tapestries that, on closer look, depict murder victims from the lower ranks of Jamaican society. In this powerful show, on view through May 13, there is nowhere to hide as audiences bear witness to violent stories that have long been swept under the carpet.
WIN-WIN. The School of Management vaulted 13 places in Bloomberg Businessweek’s national list of best full-time MBA programs, coming in at No. 47 this year. Among U.S. public universities, the school is ranked 22.
GREEN AND SILVER. “Sustainable Futures,” UB’s 10-week graduate program on sustainable architecture and planning in Monteverde, Costa Rica, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.
WELCOME, WORLD! For the 14th year in a row, UB placed among the top 25 U.S. schools for hosting students from around the world, according to the Institute for International Education.
*In case you missed it
The number of UB alumni who live in New York State. Around 77 percent of the roughly 8,000 students who graduate from UB each year stay in New York and contribute to the local and state economy.