Med school student trades in baton for stethoscope [video]

November 24, 2015 | Features, UToday, Medicine and Life Sciences
By Brandi Barhite

First-year medical student Moriah Muscaro is one of the best baton twirlers in the nation.

Her perfect figure eights, spins and illusions are a result of 17 years of continual practice, constant competition and relentless repetition.



“Twirling is amazing for me, even if it is an incredible amount of hard work, because I love to perform for people,” the 22-year-old said. “I love performing for an audience and getting everyone to smile when they leave.”

Just a week after being named College Miss Majorette of America in July, she traded in her baton for a short white coat.

“In many ways, my years of baton twirling and competing can be compared to my journey of getting into medical school and my first semester at The University of Toledo,” Muscaro said. “What I learned from twirling is work ethic. I have had to balance school and twirling my whole life. When I had homework and competition, I had to turn down friends and social opportunities.”

That continues to be the reality of her new life as a medical school student. The aspiring pediatrician who “loves the way our bodies are put together” is applying many of her baton lessons to real life.

First-year medical student Moriah Muscaro performed her routine in the Student Recreation Center.

First-year medical student Moriah Muscaro performed her routine in the Student Recreation Center.

“I love the feeling of my hard work paying off, but I know that even if I work hard, I won’t always succeed,” she said. “That is good to keep in mind as I go through medical school because while I tend to excel in math and science, I am undertaking the most vigorous academic journey of my life.”

Even though Muscaro was given a baby baton at birth, she wasn’t that good when she started twirling at age 5. That was hard to accept because her mom, Rhonda, runs a twirling program called Twirl-M’s in their hometown of Walled Lake, Mich.

“You could say that I was born with a baton in my hand, but I didn’t like it at first,” Muscaro said. “I actually wrote my personal statement to get into medical school about baton twirling because I was terrible. I wasn’t flexible; I had no natural talent, so I wrote about the life lessons learned from having to work so hard to succeed.”

By age 10, she had started to get serious about the sport, and her mom hired outside coaches. In 2005, she won her first competition. After that, the awards and accolades never stopped. She twirled for Walled Lake Middle School and Walled Lake Northern High School.

Moriah Muscaro won College Miss Majorette of America in July.

Moriah Muscaro won College Miss Majorette of America in July.

“People are so stressed out. Life is so hard,” Muscaro said. “I want to bring joy to people with my baton twirling. I want everyone to have a moment where they don’t have to worry about all the things that bring them down in life and just watch something that is pleasurable and enjoyable.”

While many twirlers end their careers after high school, Muscaro was talented enough to continue; from 2011 to 2015, she was the feature twirler for Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., where she majored in biomedical sciences and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

“During the school year, I practiced two hours a day in the morning before class,” she said. “In the summer, I practiced with my team, the Twirl-Ms, for six hours a day. My philosophy is that I practice until I get everything done and do it well.”

Meanwhile, she was taking the MCAT and applying to medical school, which included traveling for in-person interviews.

Morian Muscaro started twirling when she was 5 years old.

Morian Muscaro started twirling when she was 5 years old.

“I felt so strongly that I was being called toward medicine and, if possible, I wanted to go straight to medical school,” Muscaro said. “The process of becoming a doctor takes so long, but I really want to do this.”

She never stopped twirling, though.

In April, Muscaro competed as part of Team USA at the World Baton Twirling Championships in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy. She placed fourth as a soloist. In May, Muscaro won the College Miss Majorette of Michigan competition for the fourth time. In June, she took home the College Miss Majorette of the Great Lakes award for the third time.

When Muscaro won College Miss Majorette of America in July — the highest honor a person can get as a collegiate baton twirler — it was her fourth attempt. The first two times, she placed second. The third time she was first runner-up.

“Moriah twirled under intense pressure at College Miss Majorette of America,” said her mom, Rhonda. “Everyone wanted her to win because it was her last time before she went to medical school. Her solo routine, which was the bread and butter of the competition, was 2.5 minutes long. She twirled one, two, three and then four batons. She didn’t drop. It is like watching ice skating at the Olympics where everyone is just hoping the skater sticks the landing.”

The event was a three-part competition: a solo routine, a strutting routine that judged flexibility and timing, and then modeling a gown, which measured poise, confidence and interviewing skills. In the end, Muscaro bested 53 other twirlers.

“The whole week was emotional because I knew I was going to medical school and I was retiring from competitive baton twirling,” she said. “I needed to stick it. I needed to hit everything. Frankly, I wanted to throw up.”

Moriah doesn’t remember performing much of her solo routine, but she does remember feeling the last catch in her hand and knowing she had achieved a personal best.

“This didn’t seem reachable because I was so terrible when I was young,” she said. “I am still in shock.”

These days, she uses baton twirling as her stress reliever. She also helps with the Perrysburg Twirling Sophisticates. However, medical school and becoming immersed in the UT community is her priority, even though it feels strange to not twirl every day.

“When I came here for my interview, I really loved the community feel,” Muscaro said. “Students are welcoming to each other. It is a collaborative environment. There is so much research going on, but professors still take time for the students.”

Jeff Cole, a member of the UT Board of Trustees, talked to Muscaro before she decided on UT for medical school. He wants her to twirl at an upcoming athletic event.

“Moriah is an exceptional student who could have chosen just about any college of medicine in the country, so I think it speaks to the reputation of our faculty, student services personnel and alumni that she elected to attend The University of Toledo,” Cole said. “Likewise, she represents the excellent caliber of students enrolled in our College of Medicine. Like many of them, Moriah has achieved excellence both in and outside of the classroom while taking time to serve others along the way.”


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