Feature Stories 2023: Chelsee Teotonio '26: Path to medical school

Feature Stories 2023: Chelsee Teotonio '26: Path to medical school
Chelsee Teotonio '26: Path to medical school

First-year biology major works long hours en route to medical school

Biology major Chelsee Teotonio has a busy schedule. Many students work part time to support themselves through college and gain some real-world experience. Some people work full time and take a class or two part time to earn their degree during free time. A participant of the pre-med/pre-health advisory program, Teotonio works 40-hour weeks alongside a full-time, 15-credit academic schedule in order to graduate and enter medical school debt-free.


Upon her acceptance to UMassD, Teotonio received the Chancellor's Scholarship, which first-year incoming students are considered for if they possess a minimum combined SAT Math & Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 1200 or ACT score of 25, and have a minimum 3.8 grade point average (GPA). The scholarship awards $2,250 per semester for four years.

"I worked really hard in high school, so I was really excited to receive this award that recognized that," says Teotonio. "I was going to go to college and pay for it out of pocket myself no matter what, but this helps make that more achievable. I'm applying to more scholarships that'll hopefully ease the burden for me."

Working through school

To make up for the rest of her tuition and fees, Teotonio spends a little more than 30 hours a week working as a Certified Medical Assistant at Hawthorn Medical Associates in Dartmouth, and an additional six to eight hours as a barista at Honey Dew on weekends, logging even more hours at both when school is not in session.

"Some people might call that crazy, but I would just say that I'm very dedicated to my future. There is nothing I want to do more than succeed, and this is how I'm going to do that," says Teotonio. "I'm a very diligent saver, and determined to graduate debt-free and avoid any student loans. Working the hours I do allows me to pay for school completely out of pocket."

In addition to the financial benefits, both positions give Teotonio valuable career experience for a biology major with a pre-med concentration.

"I want to be a family medical doctor someday, and my job at Hawthorn is actually in their family practice and internal medicine department," Teotonio says. "This means I get to learn from and network with some great doctors in roles I'd like to work in someday. They've been great resources to me, so working at Hawthorn doesn't even feel like a job.

"The patients also keep me going. I love working to help make the doctor's office a comfortable place for children. When I see kids smiling in the doctor's office, it makes me so happy and brightens my day. Additionally, getting people their morning coffee quickly and with a positive attitude is great customer service experience that translates well to a career in health services. I think both jobs definitely add to my résumé."

Chelsee Teotonio '26 checks a patient's blood pressure at Hawthorn Medical Associates in Dartmouth, MA.
Teotonio '26 checks a patient's blood pressure at Hawthorn Medical Associates in Dartmouth, MA.

Teotonio began working at Hawthorn as a CO-OP for her shop at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, but was asked by her boss to stay on even after the program ended, a testament to her skills and work ethic. Now learning at a higher level in college, she credits her experience at Hawthorn as a supplemental learning experience.

"When I'm able to make a connection between a vocabulary word in the classroom and a real-life visual at Hawthorn, a light bulb goes off in my brain," says Teotonio. "I'm a hands-on learner, so it really helps me to do the actual thing, beyond just thinking about it in my mind conceptually."

Resources at UMassD

Spending so much time at work, Teotonio doesn't have a lot of time to spend on campus, but is very thankful for the faculty and staff who support her busy schedule.

"I've loved all my professors so far, and how willing they are to go out of their way to help me. Assistant Teaching Professor Ben Winslow set up special Zoom office hour appointments with me, since he knew that my schedule didn't allow me to attend his regular office hours," says Teotonio. "It's amazing to have faculty that want to see me succeed and take time out of their personal lives to support my learning."

She also makes time to use resources and tutoring available to her, frequenting the STAR Center in LARTS 222 and the STEM Learning Lab in SENG 217.

"My English teacher and Assistant Director of the STEM Learning Lab, Chris Peter is so helpful and understanding of my situation," says Teotonio. "She really believes in me, and gives me the confidence to take on this crazy schedule. She makes the STEM Lab such a loving and welcoming place, which I love to go to in between classes to write out some chemistry and biology formulas.

"Elizabeth Plante in the STAR Center is also always there for me whenever I need it. I go to the STAR Center whenever I have any unanswered questions, and just to talk things out with advising. Elizabeth is so soft-spoken and supportive. For independent study, I love the 5th floor of the library right by the window. It's so quiet and peaceful. After work I'll come back to campus just to study there."

Living debt-free

Graduating without student loan debt is especially important to Teotonio because she plans to go to medical school after graduating in hopes of becoming a family medicine doctor.

"Medical school is really intense, so I want to focus on it 100% and not work any part-time jobs on the side when I get there," says Teotonio. "As such, it's probably unrealistic to graduate medical school debt-free. If I'm at least even after my undergrad, that debt won't compound and I can start fresh while focusing on my studies."

Teotonio thinks her work experience will be a nice résumé boost for her medical school applications, and that putting in such hard work now will make the rigors of medical school seem easier when she gets there.

"When I get out of an eight-hour workday, my day isn't over; I have assignments to do," says Teotonio. "When I get out of an exam, my day isn't over; I have to get to work. This type of schedule isn't for everyone, but for me, this is so worth it financially, academically, and professionally."

Chelsee Teotonio poses at her job at Hawthorn Medical Associates in Dartmouth, MA.