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Future Doctor Honored for Outstanding Community Service
Fullerton resident recognized for volunteering with LIGA: Flying Doctors of Mercy, Camp Ronald McDonald, LA County-USC Medical Center and with two local hospices.

May 24, 2006 :: No. 256

A yearlong stint as a medical assistant in a student health center was just the thing to convince Thomas Joseph (T.J.) Buretta that his passion was in the medical field. The decision brought him to Cal State Fullerton, where he has spent three years preparing for medical school.

During those three years, the Fullerton resident volunteered with LIGA: Flying Doctors of Mercy, Camp Ronald McDonald, LA County-USC Medical Center and with two local hospices. He has served as a discussion leader, a peer mentor and vice president of the campus Student Health Professions Association.

It is for these activities that Buretta has been named the 2006 winner of the Kenneth L. Goodhue-McWilliams Award for Outstanding Community Service in the Health Professions.

The award is named for an emeritus professor of zoology and carries a $1,000 cash prize.

Buretta will be recognized at the university’s Honors Convocation Friday, May 26, on the eve of the university’s annual commencement ceremonies.

With no science background or experience in community service, Buretta dived into both when he came to Cal State Fullerton as a postbaccalaureate student. The Illinois native — who earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from Pepperdine University in 2003 — completed 66 units of course work in the sciences at CSUF with a 4.0 grade-point-average. Buretta also spent two years in the laboratory of Sandra A. Banack, associate professor of biological science, researching the central nervous system.

While he became deeply interested in research, Buretta also found working in hospice care to be rewarding. Since 2004, he has served more than 450 hours as a volunteer at the Inland Hospice Association in Claremont and Citrus Valley Hospice in Covina. At Citrus Valley, where he also is a volunteer chaplain, Buretta has been helping develop the “Life Stories” program, which encourages hospice patients, their families and friends to share and record their memories.

“It’s a great school [Cal State Fullerton], especially the health professions program,” said the 25-year-old student, who is applying to medical school to begin his studies in fall 2007. Since coming to CSUF, Buretta has become an unofficial recruiter for the health professions program, speaking of it and his experiences when he returns periodically to Pepperdine. “It doesn’t have a program like this … many UC campuses don’t either,” he said.

Buretta is among hundreds of students who have benefited from Cal State Fullerton’s Health Professions Advising Office and Heath Professions Committee, which provide support  and mentoring for students seeking entry to medical and other health professions schools. The committee — composed of university faculty members in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and administration — provides mentoring, career counseling, advising, letters of recommendation and guidance on volunteer activities and internships.


Media Contact:

Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at 657-278-4852 or

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Thomas Joseph Buretta
Thomas Joseph (T.J.) Buretta

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