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Marchek Siblings Stay Connected With Upstate AHEC Through Academic Journey

 A pair of siblings from Greer are giving back to current Upstate AHEC Health Careers students after completing the program themselves. Alex Marchek, MD is in his first year as a family medicine resident at Prisma Health Seneca. His younger sister by two years, Anna Marchek, is a second-year medical student at Edward Via College of Medicine (VCOM) Carolinas.

“My mom likes to say she did good,” Anna joked. “Both of her kids are going to be doctors. She went two-for-two.”

Anna (left) and Alex (right) Marchek are pictured with Nita Donald, Executive Director of Upstate AHEC.

While Alex and Anna have both chosen to pursue medicine as a career, their interest in healthcare developed differently. Alex describes his discovery of health sciences as a slow realization.

“It was definitely something that was on my radar really young,” said Alex. “My parents will say when I was six years old, I was talking about doing something in medicine. I had some really great science teachers in elementary, middle and high school – those were my favorite teachers and definitely my favorite classes.”

Alex recalls his anatomy classes as being pivotal in leading him to medicine, as well as getting to shadow and hear stories from his godfather, who is a nephrologist. 

“My teachers over time helped me confirm what I already knew,” said Alex. “Those teachers were ultimately the reason why I ended up getting involved with [Upstate AHEC] in high school.”

Likewise, Anna also discovered her love for medicine early on, and remembers a family trip to see an anatomy exhibit in Columbia as a defining moment for her. The exhibit was designed to show visitors the contrast between healthy bodies and those with certain conditions.

“It was really cool as a middle school kid, just getting that experience to walk through the different sections,” said Anna. “They had the lungs of someone who was a smoker, or the liver of an alcoholic versus someone who didn’t drink. Just being able to see how chronic illness or even nutrition impacts the body – it was very eye-opening and piqued my interest.”

Another important realization was made on that trip – she wasn’t turned away from a sight that may make the average person uneasy. Anna gained confidence from the experience that she could handle a future in the healthcare realm and, like her brother, enrolled in Upstate AHEC programming once she began high school.

The Path to Becoming Healthcare Professionals

Alex was connected to Upstate AHEC’s Health Careers Academy (HCA) as a freshman through his school while also participating in a Medical Explorers club sponsored by Prisma Health. The HCA is a four-year, interactive, academic-based program designed to encourage and prepare high school students to enter health careers. Anna joined as well when she was a freshman two years later.

Career exploration and learning about the wide variety of professions in healthcare was a major benefit of the program in Alex’s eyes. “[Upstate AHEC] always brought in different healthcare providers to speak with us,” said Alex. “For example, everyone knows about and what ‘doctors’ and ‘surgeons’ do. AHEC did a great job showing you other professions like physical therapy and nursing. Just other options in healthcare that I didn’t really think or know much about when I was younger.”

Anna credits the summer opportunities and clinical experiences she gained while participating in the HCA as something that really helped her decide what she wanted to study in college. “I volunteered at the Greer and Taylors Free Medical Clinics and also did patient transport at the hospital one summer,” said Anna. “Another summer I was actually in one of the cancer labs around here, spinning blood. By the end of the summer, I had gotten so good that some of the staff had me running machines for them.”

“[The program] was really helpful in applying to college,” said Alex. “It was knowledgeable about what kind of majors you need to do to get into medical school or whatever post-graduate plans you wanted. Everyone always said I seemed a lot more prepared than them and I attribute a lot of that to AHEC’s monthly classes and lectures on what to expect when applying to college.”

Anna appreciated the personal connection she had with the Upstate AHEC staff and their genuine interest in helping her get to the next level in her academic journey.

“I would meet with Ms. Donald and the staff and they were so supportive,” said Anna. “They’d sit down with you and ask, ‘What are you interested in? We have all these opportunities for you and can help you network.’ Just being able to have that support system while being so young, showing that you can do it and the right avenues to get you connected with people.”

Training Opportunities in South Carolina

After high school, Alex went on to get his undergraduate degree out of state at the University of Florida in Gainesville (UF). Anna also attended UF before finishing out her undergrad at Clemson University.  Both Marcheks returned to the Upstate for medical school, with Alex graduating from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville and Anna currently attending VCOM Carolinas. 

Having participated in the HCA while in high school, it was natural for the siblings to reconnect and continue their involvement with Upstate AHEC in their Health Professions Student (HPS) programming, partaking in interprofessional education activities and simulations.

“In medical school, I remember I did a sim lab with [AHEC] that showed how special interactions with patients are interdisciplinary, and how doctors interact with other healthcare professionals” said Alex, referring to a regional high-fidelity simulation training hosted by Upstate AHEC staff.

Anna is enrolled in the South Carolina AHEC Scholars program as a current medical student. The two-year program is part of a national initiative, consisting of didactic and experiential training opportunities with a focus on primary care and service to rural and underserved populations. Online learning modules, live webinars, unique training activities and the opportunity to network with health professionals and students across the state are some of the many benefits of being an AHEC Scholar.

The future is bright for the pair of siblings from the Upstate: Alex intends to pursue a fellowship in sports medicine after completing his family medicine residency and Anna intends to go into internal medicine when she graduates from medical school. 

Recently, Alex and Anna were invited back to participate in a panel for Upstate AHEC’s HCA students.

“In January, my brother and I actually did an ‘MD vs. DO’ panel and explained the differences to them,” said Anna. “It was nice to be able to show [the students] that ‘hey, I’ve been where you are and in this program this whole time’ and just show them all the opportunities and possibilities for their futures.”

“I try to give back to [AHEC] when I can,” said Alex of joining his sister on the panel. “They’ve given me so much.”

More information about Upstate AHEC’s programming can be found on their webpage at


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