Motivated by his own challenges, young grad becomes medical researcher

Justin Ferraro, 22, hopes to share a message with others who may suffer from medical conditions similar to his.  

"Don't let it limit you. Yes, it's a limitation and take precautions," he said. "But don't let it control your life." 

The recent Manhattan College grad was born with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly.

"My blood just doesn't clot, so you get a small cut, it just takes longer to clot than normal people," Ferraro said. "So I have medication I administer through an IV and that gives the synthetic factor that I need for the clotting to occur."

He came to the Bronx campus four years ago as a biology major with ambitions of becoming a doctor to help patients with blood disorders. But then he took a course with Dr. Antoine Nicolas, a professor who inspired Ferraro to change his whole trajectory.

"He really taught me, or showed me, the other side there is to biology and got me to where I am today," Ferraro said. "Also with his upbeat attitude and with his jokes, he had me cracking up and made learning it so much more enjoyable."

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Ferraro pivoted to focus on a career as a science researcher. Just a few weeks after graduation, he landed a gig as a technician in a cancer research lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Outside of work, he has never been able to do contact sports because of his disorder but he loves to jet ski and race cars, hoping to one day get an auto racing license.

Dr. Nicolas said he finds Ferraro to be inspiring.

"Just like students say we inspire them, we continue to be inspired by them as well," Dr. Nicolas said. "I see a bright future and if he is focusing on something that he's interested in personally that will help him individually and others, the sky's the limit."

Ferraro's goal is to one day run his own research lab where he can study genetic disorders.