Maria Echeverria (POLAHS ’17) wants to be a neurosurgeon. So wholeheartedly, in fact, that she applied for and received a coveted spot in the UC Irvine Summer Premed Program. The two-week concentration combines faculty lectures with hands-on workshops, and students live on campus as residents. While 40 students participated, only Maria and another student received a $4,000 all-expenses-paid scholarship. She didn’t stop there.
Maria also applied for the summer Surgery Program, a two-week series immediately following Premed. Again, Maria was awarded a competitive $5,000 scholarship for tuition and housing. Through the Surgery Program, Maria observed live surgical cases with top surgeons; earned CPR and Basic Life Support Certifications; and learned anatomy through dissection courses and hands-on ultrasound training. Maria hopes that by sharing her experience, she will inspire other students to pursue extracurricular opportunities. “They help you find out what you like to do, and what you’re good at,” Maria says.
My favorite part of the Premed Program | All of our activities were geared toward an “insider’s look” at being a medical student. My favorite without a doubt was the human anatomy lab. Since I am going to pursue a career in neurosurgery, I especially enjoyed having the ability to hold the human brain in my very own hands and analyze it in its entirety for a few minutes. We also learned about the basics of life support; vitals; nutrition; intubation and surgery; robotic and laparoscopic surgery; casting and splinting; as well as college and career development.
Faculty Lectures | Distinguished professors taught us about the different medical fields we could go into. We learned about the importance of being culturally and socially aware in the practice. Medicine involves science, but also caring for real people.
Surgery | After I had submitted my PreMed application, I decided to browse through UCI's website and stumbled upon the Surgery Program. I read through the activities and events planned and was instantly interested. I got the letters of recommendation required and finally submitted my application. A few months later, I got an email from UCI's Summer Program congratulating me of the fact that I had been awarded a scholarship and a spot. I was really excited to be accepted and waited anxiously for July 25th to roll around. The highlight of the program was having the remarkable opportunity of witnessing three neurosurgeries and a few other G.I. and cardio surgeries. It was an amazing experience to be able to see inside an operating room and I am really appreciative that I was allowed to participate. Small group workshops gave us first-hand exposure to surgical skills and even the da Vinci surgical robot.
Senior Year | My overall GPA is a 3.6. I am the President of the Community Service Club that I have been a member of for three years now. I am also a member of the Interact Club and Aquaponics Club. I am part of this year's Journalism class, which goes hand-in-hand with my hobby of journaling. I have kept a journal of my life for the past two years in which I write a lengthy entry every day. I am also part of WriteGirl, a community for female writers that has been recognized by Michelle Obama. I also volunteer at the Little Company of Mary San Pedro every Friday from 4-8pm, where I have accumulated more than 200 hours of community service.
College | I know that I’d like to major in biology, neuroscience, or neurobiology. I have always been very fond of biology and the human body since a young age. I recall carrying a hefty first aid kit with me during recess in middle school, so that I could help whoever fell at any given moment!
I can also recall the moment I decided that I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. During the spring semester of 11th grade, I participated in the Los Angeles Brain Bee with one of POLAHS’ greatest donors and student mentors. I had the opportunity to hold my first human brain. I remember being astounded by the complex organ I had cupped in my palms and all the thoughts racing through my mind. I knew that I wanted to remove tumors and cancers from the brain and grant people a second chance at life.
Way to go, Maria!