1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello! I’m Shannah Avila from Palestine, Texas. I am currently a Sophomore at the University of Texas at Dallas majoring in Healthcare Studies as well as minoring in Public Health.
Growing up in a small town, I’ve always longed for adventures and challenges, making my own world of enjoyable experiences with the places and people around me. I’ve enjoyed the arts of dance and music since I was about four years old from taking classes in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, and learning to play the saxophone.
2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
My favorite teacher was from my high school, Mrs. Magee, who taught Pre-AP Algebra and Geometry. I never truly appreciated or enjoyed math until I reached her class. Although she challenged us with difficult assignments and projects, it made math easier to understand and apply it to the real world. She always reminded me to chase what I truly wanted and was always there for me when I needed advice, not just for problems related to school, but to life as well. She taught with passion and truly cared about the education for all her students, and being able to see that through her inspired me to not only be just a physician but a teacher of health for the community I will one day serve.
3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?
When I was in my senior year of high school I took Dual-Credit/AP Anatomy and Physiology, and I fell in love with learning about our body system and their processes. To me, the body was the realistic art of life and that with every person, the body was different yet similar at the same time. It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year of college that I decided that medicine was definitely the career path I wanted to take. My second semester left me with anxiety and fear about my ability to become a doctor, but it also strengthened my determination and passion at the end. Why? Biology II consisted of our body systems and when I tutored others, I found enjoyment in what I was learning and explaining to the point that I lost count of the hours that passed by. I also found myself connected to the people I helped whenever I volunteered with a medical foundation I’m in. Another determining factor was due to the passing of my grandfather the previous fall semester and shadowing physicians within the East Texas area. Witnessing the length and type of care my grandfather received and understanding that the East Texas area’s health is not at its optimal level, I was moved by my desire to continue forward towards a career as a physician.
4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
As of right now, I am interested in Family Medicine because I would like my work to focus on the preventative sides of health within all age groups, especially within rural and underserved communities. Growing up in a small town, especially in East Texas, health patterns are not the best, affecting loved ones and many close people I’ve known. Also, I would like to fill the gap with the lack of primary care physicians, especially in rural communities. Later in my career, I would like to serve in a teaching hospital to make an educational difference in the lives of future/aspiring physicians. I hope one day to run a clinic that provides care to those who lack health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare in order to serve those who cannot obtain the health services they need in order for them to live healthy lives. Although it is to early to make a definite decision, this is where I stand as of right now, and I am open to any other interest that I may gain in other specialties.
5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
The coolest experience I’ve had so far was being able to shadow an inpatient family medicine resident at the UT Health Hospital in Tyler, Texas. While I was shadowing, the resident didn’t just let me sit in the corner to watch. She showed me scans, explained the processes and problems going on with each patients body, and even allowed me to listen to the heartbeats and lungs of the patients. Everything was very interactive, and although I may not have known much beforehand, she was great in explaining everything so that I could understand. What I enjoyed was that fact that all her patients were of different ages with different cases and that she had general knowledge about every body system so that she could properly refer her patients to a specialist.
6. What is your favorite book?
One of my favorite books I’ve read was called “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliba” by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai. It is a true story of a girl named Malala and her struggle and sacrifice to gain an education for girls and women in Pakistan. Her story is a voice to the millions of girls and women who now have the ability to get an education in areas all over the world who lacked it before. Her passion to fight for something she truly loves is greatly inspiring and I suggest this book to anyone who enjoys reading historical and true stories.
7. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
If I couldn’t be a doctor, I would want to continue my career in dance, especially hip-hop. I remember I first became interested in hip-hop from the TV show America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) and So You Think You Can Dance. Teaching others to dance always gets me excited to not only be a part of the process but to watch others also learn the moves.
8. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
My biggest obstacle as a pre-med is the comparison of myself to others. Whenever I compared myself, it brought a negative mentality that “I wasn’t good enough for medical school” or that “I couldn’t get in.” This not only destroyed my mentally but emotionally as well. I overcame this struggle by changing my mindset about who I was and stopped comparing myself to others whenever the thought arose. I realized that everyone has their own unique ability that makes everyone a candidate to become accepted into medical school. I would say my spirituality in my faith carried me through my hardest obstacles of comparison during my freshman year of college, and today it has transformed me into a more positive and optimistic person.
9. What do you like most about Diverse Medicine Recruitment Center?What I like most is the ability to make connections with other pre-meds around the world and to learn and support each other’s pre-med journey to medicine. There is also an ability for not only pre-meds but students interested in different fields of healthcare to gain insight and assistance through PreMed STAR.
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