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Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2023

"Rigorous and demanding, but holistic and curated" is how Zach Fryda '19 described his coursework and academic experience during his time at Westminster College. Fryda made an intentional decision to enroll at Westminster due to its early acceptance program with LECOM and since then has gone on to graduate from the program, recently receiving his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. Learn more about his Westminster experience and life since graduation, including what life lesson WC taught him, through this alumni spotlight.

What have you been up to since graduation?
Since graduating from Westminster, I have pursued post-graduate education at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine - Bradenton where I received my Doctor of Osteopathic medicine degree. After graduating medical school this past June, I am now pursuing a residency in Pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis - St. Louis Children's Hospital.

What Westminster professor influenced you the most and why?
Dr. Diana Ortiz was an integral contributor to my education at Westminster, and I can honestly say that my educational experience was profoundly impacted by her teachings, mentorship, and professionalism. I first formed a professional relationship with Dr. Ortiz when I was selecting an advisor for my capstone project in the spring of 2017. Because my idea sought to incorporate clinical data from Akron Children’s Hospital, I ultimately decided that Dr. Ortiz was the best advisor for my project due to her prior experience with the Ohio Department of Health. Additionally, Dr. Ortiz showed tremendous support and excitement for my original idea and the opportunity to collaborate with a physician at Akron Children’s. Like most of my peers, my capstone process seemed as if I bit off more than I could chew. However, Dr. Ortiz provided me with guidance, reassurance, and expertise throughout the process that allowed me to complete a successful capstone project. Even from our initial advisor meeting, Dr. Ortiz was so supportive of my idea that she noted the potential for publication, which was a prestige I thought unreachable for such a short timeframe. In May 2019 though, we published an article in the medical magazine Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News, thereby accomplishing that goal. In addition to publishing my capstone project, Dr. Ortiz was the driving influence behind my presentation at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2019. She also assisted in helping me to obtain a travel grant from the Drinko center for attending NCUR. At this conference, I was able to compare my capstone project to peers from around the country. With extreme confidence and little bias, I can assure that my research project was of much higher quality than my peers, largely due to the knowledge, encouragement, and standards of Dr. Ortiz. Dr. Ortiz was also my instructor for BIO 467-Epidemiology, in the fall of 2018. Prior to this course, my career path of interest was to pursue a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine with aspirations of becoming an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician. After completing this course, I vehemently acknowledge Dr. Ortiz’s exceptional ability to provide career advice and guidance, which has contributed to my aspirations to become a Pediatric Oncologist. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Ortiz was an enormous support to my life in general. The open door to her office was always a welcoming site. During my senior year at Westminster, I found myself in Dr. Ortiz’s office at least once a week, simply to chat and relieve stress. Because of her friendliness, positivity, and humor, my interactions with Dr. Ortiz were seldom characterized by anything less than an uplifting experience. I could write an entire novel on why Dr. Ortiz is such a profound professor, and I know that her other students could as well. As a recent graduate from Westminster College, I frequently discuss my experiences at the school. In almost every post-graduation conversation I have had, I am asked why I am so passionate and supportive of a tiny college in the middle of Amish country. My answer is always the same: the professors, friends, and community are amazing, but Dr. Ortiz provided an educational experience that sculpted me into the professional I am today.

Were you involved in any student organizations, clubs or athletic teams while you were on campus?
I was a 4-year member of the 2015 and 2018 PAC Champions Men's Soccer team. I was also a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity and Lead Tutor at the Academic Success Center.

What significant life lesson did you learn at Westminster?
Embrace the suck: in the pursuit of your goals, you will inevitably encounter hurdles and setbacks. However, these are in fact a misnomer, as in their absence, seldom does personal growth and development occur organically.

What makes the Westminster College experience unique?
Without even knowing it, Westminster provides you with a family and a home. The relationships and bonds I formed during my undergraduate studies are some of the strongest and closest connections I have ever been afforded in my life. The palpable values of community and semblance of this college are unlike any other place.