Precollege student, Carlos Jay Espinosa

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Precollege scholarship recipient wants to change healthcare in the Philippines

It was a tweet that opened Carlos Jay Espinosa’s eyes to healthcare inequality and helped motivate him to study medicine at Cornell. Espinosa, a high school student in the Philippines, says the message was a last-ditch plea for help for an elderly woman in his village who was diabetic and could no longer afford her insulin. A vial of insulin cost about $10 U.S., Espinosa said, a sum out of reach for his family and many of his fellow citizens. Espinosa felt guilty he could do nothing more than retweet the post.

“I am a firm believer that health care is a human right,” said Espinosa, who has been fascinated by medicine for as long as he could remember.

“Where I’m from, there is very small population of doctors and people are not well-educated about basic medical facts because health care is expensive.”

“Corruption, and poor leadership has deteriorated the quality of health care here, affecting millions of lives. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shows how fragile and susceptible our healthcare system is to collapse.”

Espinosa, who wants to practice medicine in the Philippines and help people get more equitable access to health care, said he didn’t have the means to attend academic programs that could help foster his goal.

That changed this year when Espinosa was awarded the Dean’s Scholarship from Cornell University Precollege Studies to take a biology course with Cornell faculty and earn college credit.

“As a first-generation student, and one who didn’t come from a well-off household, I always dreamt of attending international opportunities like this, since programs of this kind are scarce in my country,” Espinosa said. “I thought of that dream as something impossible.”

The scholarship was designed by Cornell alumni to help academically motivated students from diverse backgrounds attend Precollege Studies, which would ordinarily be financially out of reach for them.

“The Dean's Scholarship reflects the fact that generous alumni wanted to ensure financial challenges do not stop talented students, like Carlos, from joining the Cornell community and thriving,” said Precollege Studies director, James Schechter.

Espinosa studied Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment online this summer with Cornell faculty member Justin St. Juliana. He took particular interest in lessons about parasitism and disease ecology. “It was fascinating to see how diseases may spread not just among humans, but also human-to-animal.”

Currently, Espinosa is leading a student STEM initiative at his high school and applying to colleges. With a Cornell transcript in hand, he said he’s not afraid to apply to top schools around the world and vie for other scholarships to help him get there.

“I have so many takeaways from the course,” he said. “I learned substantial concepts that will allow me to see the world from a more scientific lens.” 

To learn more about Cornell’s online and on-campus precollege programming, a division of Cornell’s School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, visit the Precollege Studies website at

To apply for a summer scholarship, visit our Financial Aid page. To give to the precollege scholarship fund, visit the Precollege scholarship page.

This story appears in SCE news

Shelley Preston is the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions’ communications and marketing specialist.




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