Student Spotlights

When you were deciding where you would attend medical school, what was special about the Keck School of Medicine of USC that made you choose to come here? What are some enjoyable moments and/or important accomplishments that you have experienced while at KSOM of USC?

Sabino Maldonaldo

Sabino Maldonaldo
Hometown: Los Lunas, New Mexico
Undergrad: New Mexico Tech
Interests: Oncology, OB/GYN, Underserved Communities, Increasing Representation of Minorities in Medicine
Medical School Year: Second Year (Soon to be Third Year) 

Heritage and community service are two main reasons why I decided to become a Trojan. Growing up as a first generation American, my parents instilled within me two important values:  appreciation for my Latinx heritage and humility towards my privilege. With these two values in mind, I envisioned a career in medicine where I can finally take care of those underserved communities that I grew up around which taught me the resilience I know today. To my luck, Keck has become the avenue through which I will accomplish my own dream.

Being situated at the heart of East Los Angeles, Keck rises to the commitment of caring for the underrepresented populations in L.A. Keck takes a holistic approach to this commitment of care that extends beyond the clinic to various aspect of medicine, such as diversifying medicine and addressing community needs. My favorite part of being a Trojan has been having my own values align with Keck’s effort to care for underrepresented populations. I have enjoyed being a part of the Anti-Racism Task Force, where administration and students combat racism that exists within curriculum, admissions, community engagement and more. I will never forget the fulfillment of working with my close queer peers and members of MedLamda to start the first Out List which has helped bring visibility to students and faculty who identify as LGBTQ+. I will always remember with high regard the various mentorship events for local elementary school children to college premeds in which I have been able to participate through LMSA (Latino Medical Student Association). If you are like me and hope to be an agent of change in medicine, then Keck is a place where you will thrive. It is without a doubt that at Keck you can find friends, faculty, and deans who are willing to support your dream of a more equitable future.


Priya Kohli

Priya Kohli
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Undergrad: UCLA 
Interests: Urology, OB/GYN, reproductive justice, destigmatizing sexual health, Hospital quality improvement, MD/MBA
Medical School Year: First year 

Before applying to medical school, people would always ask me “Oh, how do you feel about having to study all the time?” “Are you okay with giving up your 20s” “How do you feel about work-life balance?” These were all questions I endlessly thought about during the application cycle, and I wondered, would there be a place for me to develop my hobbies, interests, along with my academic self? The first glimpse of Keck’s care for the whole student came with its unique secondary questions. I had so much fun answering them and that’s when I waited eagerly hoping I would get an interview. Not only is it in sunny and exciting Los Angeles, but I felt it was a school that may just allow me to keep my interests outside of medicine. 

On interview day, I was pleasantly surprised that our first interaction with the school was a conversation with the Dean of Admissions. I felt that this exemplifies the values that Keck places on its students. We are not just students, we are treated as equals and are led by physician leaders who are ecstatic for our growth and development. My first block at Keck I was so surprised at the warmth of the faculty. With educators constantly reminding us that we deserve to be here and they are there for us every step of the way. It feels like a place where everybody around me is truly rooting for me: from my classmates to my educators, each and every day I meet people who genuinely care to help me reach my full potential. Medical School is of course difficult and the course load has definitely taken some adjusting but the emphasis Keck places on students’ mental health is phenomenal. There are no barriers if we want to interact with Deans, Professors, etc. At Keck School of Medicine I have never once felt belittled or that I was any lesser just because I was at a different part of my path in medicine. If anything, I am constantly reminded that I am valued and a large part of the Keck community. 

So to answer the people that asked me if I was ready to give up aspects of my life or miss out on my 20s, I feel that my life has only been enhanced in every way at KSOM. Of course, sacrifice will naturally be a part of medicine because of its time-consuming nature, but if there is any place that will help you keep all the aspects about yourself that you value, it is Keck. I haven’t ever felt like I was “giving-up” any aspect of my life. I am in a happy relationship and find time to cook, hike, and do fun things. I love Keck so much and I know Keck loves me too!


Betsy Awelachew

Betsy Awelachew
Hometown: Los Angeles
Undergrad: The George Washington University
Interests: Underserved communities, minority health, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, Internal Medicine
Medical School Year: Fourth-year medical student

My very first medical school interview was at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to find a school that compared. Not only does this institution have a competitive academic reputation, but I immediately felt welcomed by the USC family, when I walked onto campus. Moreover, after visiting Los Angeles General Medical Center and learning about how much Keck students work to serve underrepresented populations, I knew that I had to come here for medical school. And now, only a year later, my overall experience at the Keck School has proven to exceed all my expectations and then some. From engaging academic lectures to leadership positions in student organizations, I’m assured every day of why I chose the Keck School. I am glad to have met and befriended a group of well-rounded students and staff, who have fostered a supportive and encouraging student community. From the moment I decided to pursue medicine, I wanted to focus on advocating for quality health care for underprivileged communities and increasing diversity in the medical professions. I know that I will be able to achieve all of my goals thanks to everyone here at the Keck School, and I am proud to be a part of this amazing institution.