Early one spring morning, after taking a biology exam, Novonaca Touch decided to take the Bull Runner home instead of her usual route. She was dropped off in front of her home where she found a white envelope with her name engraved at the top right corner.
She carefully opened the envelope and began to read the letter. Her eyes filled with tears when she saw the words “Congratulations you have been accepted.”
The 22-year-old had applied for Yale School of Medicine during her fall semester at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She had dreams of attending a prestigious medical school ever since she was a little girl living in Cambodia.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that something so monumental like this would happen to me” she said. “Throughout my four years in college I have worked extremely hard and it is just a blessing see how it has paid off.”
Touch was born and raised in Kampot, Cambodia. Her family moved to Tampa four years ago.
“I don’t consider myself a foreign exchange student, but I can relate to the culture shock,” she said. “Americans are open and liberal. People from my country, especially women are more reserved and want to live a private society.”
Touch is currently a senior and studying biomedical science. She plans to use her passion for emergency medical care to join Doctors Without Borders.
“I come from a country where medical care is not easily accessible to everyone in need,” Touch said. “My mission in life is to practice medicine in my home town and give back to as any people as possible.”
She has been accepted to numerous graduate medical schools, including USF College of Medicine. She has received scholarships and study aboard opportunities to further her career.
Myra Phal —a relative of Touch— has also graduated from USF, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Science as well.
“I couldn’t be happier for Novonaca,” she said. “She has such a kind heart and loveable personality. I’m going to be a bit broken hearted when she moves out of Tampa, but I know she will make us proud.”
Touch will begin Yale School of Medicine fall semester of 2016. She will be graduating from USF spring 2016.
“Nervous is the only word to describe how I am feeling,” she said. “Yale is not just an ordinary school… it’s kind of a deal here in the states. I really just want to take this journey one step at a time and make my family and other students with the same background proud of my achievements.”
Touch’s younger sister Dara is next in line to attend USF. She hopes to eventually work side-by-side with her sister.
“Novonaca and I have always had a close relationship. It would be awesome to work under her practice,” she said.
Yale School of Medicine has already begun to make Touch feel like part of the community. She has received royal blue and white decorated care packages to match the color of her new school as well as welcoming her to the next chapter in her life.
“2016 is going to be my year,” she said. “I am so grateful to be a positive role model to young women who are working hard to further their education.”