MEET OUR ALUMNI
Police Officer Martin Munoz
BCNY alumnus Martin Munoz is a police officer with the New York Police Department. Like so many professions impacted by this global health crisis, normal day-to-day operations are a thing of the past for the NYPD. For one, if you take a look on the homepage of the agency’s website, you’re met with a surge of information on coronavirus, agency service suspensions and reductions, and a link to report a social distancing violation.
“Before entering a department facility, temperatures are taken, and facial masks are provided. This was a big adjustment for me, getting accustomed to wearing a face covering. My biggest fear is that this pandemic will continue for an undetermined amount of time because we are social beings by nature. Human interaction is needed for our healthy emotional development.”
Martin, who identifies as Mexican American, grew up in the Lower East Side and joined the Harriman Clubhouse in 1986 at the age of 13.
“Back then, members were classified into three categories: Midgets, Juniors, and Intermediates. I was a Junior when I first entered the Boys’ Club doors. I did not know it then, but the clubhouse would become an important part of my life. I initially joined to become more sociable, which was my mother’s idea. She did not like the fact that I was coming home from school, watching television, and eating. The Boys’ Club provided me, an overweight kid, with physical activity. I also became a member of the now-discontinued boxing team. I represented BCNY in the famed ‘New York City Golden Gloves,’ in the Superheavyweight Division. I even made it to the semifinals two years in a row! This gave me the confidence to pursue other life goals. This would not have been possible if not for BCNY.”
The Boys’ Club, says Martin, provided him with the foundation for adulthood.
“During my younger years, I did not understand the value of an education—chalk it up to lack of maturity. There was a period in my life when I was more focused on my athletic career. After my amateur career with the New York City Golden Gloves was over, I contemplated a professional career, but it never quite manifested. Thankfully, the Boys’ Club reinforced what my parents taught me. At one point, I enrolled at LaGuardia Community College, so that I could work at the Boys’ Club because being in school was a condition of my employment.”
Working at the Boys’ Club sparked Martin’s interest in public service. He eventually transferred to the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and majored in human services.
“During my period at BMCC, I would walk past One Police Plaza and fantasize about being a police officer. As a kid, I would watch television shows that centered around cops, shows like Kojack and Hill Street Blues, to name a few.”
After stints in law enforcement with The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and The New York City Department of Corrections, Martin pursued his lifelong dream, joining the New York Police Department.
“I was not your typical police recruit; I was in my early thirties. Eventually, I transferred to a new command, where a sergeant took a special liking to me. I became his driver, and during my time working with him, I would discuss my desire to finish my education. I never felt like I had the intellectual capacity to get an undergraduate degree. For whatever reason, he encouraged me to pursue my education. One day on patrol, he said he needed to make a stop. We drove to 59th Street and 10th Avenue. We went inside the building, and I just tagged along, listening to him ask questions about the admissions process. That day would change my life. Sgt. Ramroop stated that I would start taking classes by next semester. I was taken by surprise. I wasn’t sure if I was yet ready. Sgt. Ramroop said I was ready and paid my admissions fee to get into the program. In January 2016, I enrolled in my first class at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.”
Martin completed his undergraduate studies in the summer of 2018 and immediately began the graduate portion of the NYPD Leadership Program at John Jay. His goal is to teach and share the knowledge he’s acquired so others, too, may be inspired by his story.
“I am a work in progress. I am constantly learning and developing my skills. And now, during this pandemic, I rely on family conversations and reading a good book to maintain a sense of normalcy and put me at ease.”
Martin is an example to us all that life is a constant cycle of learning, growing, and believing in a brighter day—a lesson of hope and perseverance that can serve as an anchor in these fragile times.
“If I can provide any words of encouragement during this time of uncertainty, I’d say take precautions as advised by medical experts, check on loved ones, and remain positive. This might sound a bit clichéd, but we will get through this.”
Benson Ku is a general psychiatry resident in the Emory University School of Medicine. The opinions expressed in this interview do not represent those of Emory Healthcare or Emory University School of Medicine.
Can you tell us briefly about you, your childhood, and the role The Boys’ Club played in your life?
I grew up in a socioeconomically disadvantaged family in Queens. I was a member of the Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing and was accepted into the Independent School Placement (ISP) Program despite my academic shortcomings at that time. This program, under the directorship of Antonio Aponte, prepared me, advocated for me, and believed in me. I was able to attend and graduate from Middlesex School and Columbia University. After graduation from ISP, I went back to mentor and teach middle and high school students. I saw my younger self in many kids in this program, and I wanted them to know that they could overcome these struggles just like I did. I am forever grateful that The Boys’ Club of New York welcomed me with open arms, and I would not be where I am today without their love and support.
How long have you studied in your field? Are there any pivotal people or moments that led you to the medical profession?
I am a second-year psychiatry resident on the Research Track with a focus on public health research. I was drawn to this field of medicine because of the opportunity to positively impact the lives of the most underserved. I first thought about becoming a doctor after an invitation to perform a magic show at the Boston Children’s Hospital. After being asked a question about life and death, I considered a profession that could treat and prevent serious illnesses among vulnerable individuals. During medical school, I was curious to better understand and identify key risk factors in the development of severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. I learned about how this knowledge has the power to not only provide early intervention to those at high risk but also to prevent debilitating diseases from occurring. I feel that being involved with this type of research has helped me gain a greater awareness of prevention in addition to treatment and wellness for my patients.
As a second-year Psychiatrist during a pandemic, what are some of the daily challenges you face?
This is a strange time for all of us. We are all under a lot of stress and encountering a pandemic that we have never faced before. Many hospitals have now canceled all but emergency visits and surgeries. And we need to remember that just because we’re in a pandemic does not mean that other medical emergencies stop. People still have broken bones to fix, people still have heart attacks, people still have suicidal ideations, and people happily are still having babies. The work of the healthcare workers marches on, and we will continue caring for the people who need us. But in the face of increasing need, our resources for taking care of each patient are precious and essential. Although limited resources are an ongoing challenge, I would like to thank the community members who have pitched in to donate medical supplies to keep our patients and staff safe.
What are some key points that you would like our members to be aware of? Can you debunk some frequent misconceptions about COVID-19?
A colleague at my institution, Michelle Au, MD, MPH, an anesthesiologist, eloquently put together a few key points that I will share with you all. Many have referred to healthcare workers as working on the “frontline” of this pandemic. I understand the terminology and the inclination to use wartime metaphors in this moment is apt. However, one thing needs to be made clear. Healthcare workers are NOT the frontline in this battle. We, as healthcare workers, stand in the back. We are the LAST line of defense, and we hope the fight never gets to us. The frontline of this epidemic is you; the people in the community tasked with the challenge of keeping us all safe. The history of Public Health is a story of prevention. Public health is about preventing more significant problems before they happen, and we need YOU on the frontlines to help stand guard. These are some ways you can help:
- Social distancing
- Cleaning and frequently sanitizing to prevent community spread
- Applying quarantine when indicated
- Hopefully, we will add to this list vaccination as one further Public Health measure in this fight.
So, thank you for standing on the frontlines for us and know that all of us on the LAST line of defense appreciate anything you can do to help.
Some of our members live with elderly family members and they would like to know what to be aware of.
Many people live with other family members who may be elderly. Elderly people and those who are immunocompromised are most vulnerable to this disease. They should, as much as possible, stay at home. To limit the spread of this disease, everyone should frequently be cleaning, sanitizing, and maintaining a distance of six feet to not only protect themselves but also to protect others around them.
Can you share any positive comments for our members, families, and BCNY community?
With the coronavirus outbreak having devastating impacts on our lives and expected to worsen before getting better, it may be challenging to have a positive outlook. However, amid all the doom and gloom, there has been so much support and camaraderie in our institutions, hospitals, and the wider community. Emory medical students have organized over 100 students in Atlanta to volunteer to assist healthcare workers with essential tasks, including childcare, grocery delivery, and meal preparation. People have been sewing masks and donating them to hospitals throughout the county. Kids have been keeping in touch with their families by delivering cookies and writing special messages in chalk on the sidewalks. These acts of kindness remind us that although we may be physically distant, we are all in this together.
What are some of your favorite activities?
I love to run every morning and spend time with friends and family. During this pandemic, I have been able to connect with them through Zoom and even started a weekly virtual Record Club with my friends to talk about our favorite music albums.