Francine Zeng ’22, School of Medicine

Francine Zeng reflects on her time at UConn

Francine Zeng '22 (SOM) outside the academic entrance of UConn Health

Francine Zeng '22 (SOM) is a graduate of the UConn School of Medicine. April 13, 2022 (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

If for some reason Connecticut is ever running low on Husky spirit, Francine Zeng will be ready as an invaluable natural resource.

Zeng ’18 (CLAS) is on her way to being a Triple Husky: undergraduate, medical school, and soon her orthopaedic surgery residency at UConn Health. In her time at the University, she’s not only benefited from the community, she’s given back to it, time and again, as a member of everything from the School of Medicine Admissions Committee to the American Medical Women’s Association chapter on campus.

Zeng found UConn School of Medicine both inspiring and supportive in her time as a student. Now, as a new resident at UConn Health, she’ll be modeling those virtues for years to come.

Why did you choose UConn?
As I think about my time at UConn School of Medicine, I can’t help getting emotional! It was my first choice as a medical school, obviously because of the in-state benefits and proximity to my family, but also because I loved the supportive and friendly atmosphere I experienced during my interview day. I love my classmates and all of the connections I have made over the past four years. Nobody else understands how rewarding and challenging medical school can be so having over 100 friends here who are always willing to help and celebrate with you is unbelievable!

Why did you choose to enter medical school/the field of medicine?
I always knew I wanted to enter medicine because my father is a dentist and encouraged me to spend my life helping others from an early age. I decided to become a physician approximately halfway through college after performing some shadowing and realizing that I wanted to be a leader in my field. Becoming a doctor would give me the ability to both treat and advocate for my patients.

What are your plans after graduation?
I just found out that I matched into Orthopaedic Surgery at UConn! It was my number one choice and I am super excited to be a triple Husky!

What activities were you involved with as a student?
Supporting other women in medicine has become very important to me, so I was president of the Women in Surgery and American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) groups at UConn! This was a great way to meet upperclassmen and faculty members to serve as my mentors, as well as pay it forward by advising underclassmen. Furthermore, because the field of orthopaedics has historically been male-dominated, I was involved in the Perry Initiative and Inspiring Women in Engineering and Medicine (IWEM) groups, which specifically inspired female high school students and medical students to pursue STEM careers.

I also love giving back to my UConn Community, so I was on the Admissions Committee, an Orientation Leader, and one of the chairs in organizing the Second Look Weekend for the medical class below me! I became really close with my classmates and faculty members by participating in these and I look forward to staying here for the next five years!

How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?
I have learned many lessons throughout my time at UConn, both during undergrad and medical school! I think UConn undergrad taught me how to take responsibility for my life and schedule because college offers you significantly more independence. I learned that if I wanted to succeed and reach my goals, then I had to become my own advocate and create my own opportunities.

The UConn School of Medicine has given me a great medical foundation and the confidence to be a physician. My faculty and classmates have offered me non-stop support over these past four challenging years and I am extremely grateful and humbled for the opportunity. I have spent the majority of my formative years within the UConn family and couldn’t be happier about the person I have turned out to be!

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?
One of the things that surprised me most about the UConn School of Medicine is how supportive and non-competitive the culture is. Although the combined medical and dental classes consist of over 150 students, the faculty members make every effort to get to know each of us individually. There was always somebody who could help me with any problem I had along the way! This supportive attitude spread into the student classes as well because I have made some of my best friends throughout medical school and couldn’t be graduating without them!

Any advice for incoming first-year medical students?
If you are certain about entering medicine, definitely keep fighting for it! It is a long road, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Surround yourself by people who love you and make sure to celebrate every success in your journey, regardless of how big or small! Be assertive and in addition to seizing every opportunity, go out of your way to create your own opportunities.

What’s one thing every student should do during their time at UConn?
At UConn School of Medicine, definitely go to the Friday afternoon anatomy review sessions! Not only was it extremely helpful to walk through the anatomy we reviewed that week with classmates, but getting to know the anatomy faculty was a hoot! They are some of the most dedicated teachers and always made learning fun!

Who was your favorite mentor and why?
My biggest inspiration and mentor is Dr. Kathy Coyner, who I actually met on my first day of medical school as she was randomly assigned as my first year coach. She is a female orthopaedic surgeon who runs several workshops with the goal of exposing and inspiring more females to enter surgical subspecialties. She took me under her wing early on and allowed me to gain more exposure to, and ultimately fall in love with, orthopaedics. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her support!

What’s one thing that will always make you think of UConn?
Seeing the people that I love most in my life will always remind me of UConn! The majority of my best friends from home also attended UConn undergrad with me, and I have made a ton of new friends during college and medical school as well. I actually met my boyfriend during my first year of medical school when he sat next to me during class! Therefore, it’s safe to say that UConn will always be in my heart!

What was it like training to be a doctor during a pandemic?
The pandemic was challenging for everyone; pushing myself to continue studying while also worrying about my loved ones and the state of the world was definitely one of the biggest challenges I had experienced to date. Witnessing how determine our healthcare workers were during the peak of the pandemic was inspiring and has made me proud and thankful for the opportunities to be in medicine.

During my clinical rotations, it was certainly different learning in a pandemic. However, as physicians we are expected to be adaptable while continuing to provide the best care for our patients and this experience has better prepared me for challenges yet to come.