Student Profile: Nick Benvenuto
Finding Science and Art in Both Winemaking and Medicine
Nick Benvenuto counts himself as one of the many Jefferson students who are already Jefferson alumni. Now in his second year at SKMC, Benvenuto completed the Postbaccalaureate Pre-Professional Program—better known as “P4”—in the Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences in 2014.
Designed to enable students to pivot from non-science undergraduate degrees to careers in health-related fields, P4 was a perfect fit for Benvenuto, who graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s in agribusiness management, then began working at Wycombe Vineyards near his hometown in Bucks County, Pa. Fascinated by the science behind the fermentation process, he eventually headed west for a job at a vineyard and winery in California’s Sonoma County, stopping to visit a friend in Colorado along the way.
“I fell completely in love with Denver and couldn’t leave,” says Benvenuto, who changed his plans and reached out to a local winemaker in search of a position. “Luckily, wineries are always looking for harvest help.” Benvenuto and his coworkers would take turns driving a big yellow moving truck four hours to a tiny grape-growing town on the state’s western slope, where they’d pick up “a couple tons of grapes” before heading back and make and sell wine.
In his spare time, Benvenuto started volunteering at Denver Health Medical Center, where he did things like folding linens and keeping patients comfortable as they waited for care. He had always felt that winemaking was a temporary career and found himself drawn to the field of medicine: “Denver Health is a teaching hospital, and the doctors were comfortable with me watching them work.” The experience inspired him to apply to postbaccalaureate programs, and the following fall he enrolled at Jefferson as one of only 10 students in the inaugural P4 class.
P4 appealed to Benvenuto on several levels—he liked the thought of attending a graduate-level institution that focused exclusively on healthcare. “After three years out of college, I didn’t want to go back to your typical 300-person gen-chem course, which can happen in postbac programs at undergraduate institutions,” he says. But he soon discovered perks beyond the small class sizes.
“As P4s, we got to be part of JeffHOPE [SKMC’s student-run organization that provides free care to homeless and underserved individuals]. Actually getting to serve on a med team in that environment—taking patient histories and vital signs, doing physical exams, presenting to resident-physicians—you don’t get to do that through other postbac programs.” These activities affected Benvenuto deeply; now, as an SKMC student, he continues to volunteer with JeffHOPE as well as with Refugee Health Partners, which operates clinics for refugees living in Philadelphia.
Although his days in the vineyard are behind him, Benvenuto remains intrigued by wine. “Like medicine, winemaking is both a science and an art—all winemakers have their own touch and style. The process still amazes me.” Can he recommend a standby favorite? “Sure. Rhône Valley reds, from the south of France. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a really good one.”
-Karen L. Brooks