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Monica Avila – February 2011 Scholar of the Month

Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

School: University of New Mexico

Major: Doctorate of Medicine

1. What field of study do you intend to pursue if you receive the CHCI Scholarship?

I am a first-year medical student at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a political refugee from Cuba, my parents’ struggles undoubtedly influenced my desire for higher education and motivated my academic pursuits. Out of high school, I was accepted into a combined bachelors and medical degree program that guaranteed my position in medical school upon completion of an undergraduate degree. I entered as a Presidential Scholarship Recipient making the Dean’s List for four consecutive academic years. Throughout the years, I remained active in the University. I became president of the Student Health Leadership Council giving students a voice in the student health center and I was president of the BAMD Pre-medical organization guiding pre-medical students in research and volunteer opportunities. I was also a member of the local chapter of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

In my community, I participated in various events including volunteering as a camp counselor for Camp Rising Sun, a camp geared for children on the Autism Spectrum and volunteering at Cuidando Los Ninos, a daycare for underprivileged children. I also created teams for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Annual Walk and aided fundraising for the Albuquerque Lupus Walk. Throughout my undergraduate years, I was also an intern at an Albuquerque ultrasound clinic and at the Gallup Indian Medical Center Ear, Nose, & Throat Clinic in Gallup, New Mexico.

In May 2010, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a minor in Health Medicine. I also received Magna Cum Laude Honors for my research thesis on Inflammatory Breast Cancer in the department of Biochemistry under Dr. Jeffrey Griffith, Executive Dean at the UNM Medical School. At the annual UNM Recognition Reception for Outstanding Students, I received the Student Volunteer Award for dedication to the university and my community at large.

In July 2010, I began on my journey to becoming a physician. Since entering medical school, I have found myself part of rich opportunities for community involvement in local clinics and population-based changes through public health initiatives. In October 2010, I was recognized by the UNM Medical School Alumni Association as a scholarship recipient and honorary alumni member for my achievements thus far in academia and the community. Currently, my educational focus is on becoming a practitioner of sound and just medicine for those in all strata of society. My goal is ultimately the betterment of humanity, stemming from the simple hope of making a difference.

2. How Has the Scholarship Changed Your Life?

As a Hispanic American woman studying medicine at the University of New Mexico, I am honored and grateful for the opportunities that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute has provided me. The CHCI Scholarship not only provides a necessary financial assurance for the continuation of my education, but it has introduced me to a network of individuals and resources that will be instrumental. The CHCI scholarship is the perfect example of a program that sets out to meet the needs of communities by investing in the education of the leaders of tomorrow.

For me, this scholarship signifies the realization of a goal that would prove far more difficult were it not for the help of CHCI. Thanks to CHCI, I can say that I am one step closer to graduating with my Doctorate of Medicine and becoming an active physician in my community and at large. As I grow into my role in higher education, I aspire to aid other upcoming Hispanic students much like CHCI aided me. I am proud to be a 2010 CHCI Scholar and look forward to the opportunities it will bring.