Meet Azariel Coss

Date: Thursday, July 28, 2022

Azariel CossHometown: St. Charles, Illinois 

Azariel Coss likes taking things apart and putting them back together. He enjoys tinkering with electronics and recently built his first gaming computer from scratch. 

“I always liked breaking stuff down, seeing how it worked—which probably wasn’t fun for my mom,” Coss says. 

This fall, he’ll apply his analytical skills to medical school. Many of his family members in Mexico work in health care, including an aunt who is a physician, a grandmother who was a nurse, and a grandfather who was an anesthesiologist. 

“I spent summers and vacations there, and when they would go to work, sometimes they would take me with them,” Coss says. “That was what piqued my curiosity at first.” 

Coss’ father and grandmother both began to have health problems when Coss was young, and Coss attended appointments with them to translate. The experience showed him how differences in culture and language can cause barriers to care. 

“I asked myself, ‘Why aren’t there more people who can help people like my father and grandmother?’ and that melded with my interest in the science aspect,” he says. “Being able to relate to someone and speak comfortably makes a difference.” 

A nontraditional path 

Coss didn’t apply to medical school right after finishing his undergraduate degree at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, as many pre-med students do. He took an opportunity at a nearby dermatology clinic to gain valuable health care experience. 

“The doctor had just started his own practice, and he said, ‘As long as you’re willing to do the clerical work for me at first, eventually I’ll bring you in the room with me and you can scribe with me,’” Coss says. 

He has worked for nearly four years at the dermatology clinic, gaining not just medical knowledge but also experience with patients and the health care system more broadly. 

“It was an amazing experience,” he says. “It put me in the situation to figure out if this was really something I wanted to do. And thankfully, it was.” 

Coss says the experience he gained working in the health care setting prior to applying to medical school has given him clearer expectations about what patient care will look like as a physician. 

“It’s not always straightforward in medicine. If I had gone straight from college, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed pre-med graduate, it would not have been what I expected at all,” Coss says. “That’s the perspective I gained, and what I hope is that I can share that perspective with my future classmates.” 

When he interviewed at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Coss connected with faculty and staff and felt that at Iowa, he could see himself becoming the kind of provider he wants to be. 

“I felt like Carver saw that I added value,” he says. “With my experience, I know what value I have, and I’m aware of my abilities. It was the only school that made me feel like they also saw it, too.” 

Coss looks forward to being “thrown in” to the medical school experience. 

“It’s been my dream my whole life,” he says. “I took four years off to figure that out for myself."