Student Spotlights

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: Third-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 County+USC hospital 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.

Matthew Gillum
Matthew Gillum Hometown: Spokane, Washington Undergrad: University of California, Los Angeles Interests: Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, Psychiatry, Lower extremity trauma and reconstruction research Medical School Year: Third-year medical student
I was not expecting any surprises, when I applied to the Keck School of Medicine of USC. I had already attended a large university in Los Angeles, for both college and graduate school. I figured I had a pretty good idea about what large academic institutions were like and the things they looked for in a student. My first surprise came with the questions we had to answer on the application. I expected to be asked about research, volunteering, academics, but each question had to do with getting to know our hobbies, backgrounds and personalities. I continued to be surprised, when I discovered throughout applying and attending that this interest in our lives is very representative of the school. This focus on the students as individuals really affects every aspect of attending. The administration makes student well-being its primary priority, with individual student check-ins as well as regular wellness seminars and resources. The curriculum and academics are designed in a way to reduce competition and make medical school more stress-free — as stress-free as medical school can be, anyway. The biggest way that this individualized approach has affected my experience is the students who go here. Our class is full of collaborative, friendly and interesting people. Everyone that I have gotten to know here has had either a cool hobby, a perspective that I can try to learn from or an interesting life story to tell — and usually all three. I really love this place. I’m proud to go to a school that really cares about the students, and I love getting to study medicine at a school surrounded by a diverse and supportive group of people.

Lauren Y. Maldonado
Lauren Y. Maldonado
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergrad: USC
Interests: Medicine-Pediatrics; adolescent reproductive health; maternal, newborn and child health; Global public health research; underserved and minority populations
Graduate: Class of 2020

When choosing a medical school, I sought a training environment that exhibited a strong sense of comradery, primarily served underserved patients, celebrated engagement in the local community, and that would allow me the freedom to explore my diverse interests in clinical medicine and global health research. By coming to Keck School of Medicine of USC, I felt I not only chose a school with these qualities but also had a unique opportunity to give back to the diverse communities that are an intrinsic part of my family. My mother and grandmother immigrated to the Echo Park area from Taiwan in the 1980s; my paternal grandfather immigrated from Sonora, Mexico and grew up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood surrounding Los Angeles County+USC.

Throughout my journey, the Keck School has exceeded my expectations in each of these areas. I made some of my best and lifelong friends during medical school – those I feel honored to stand alongside throughout my career. LAC+USC is a challenging yet thrilling environment to train in; there is no other hospital system quite like it that sets an early precedent for demonstrating responsibility and agency in patient care. Many of our patients are uninsured, live below the poverty line or are recent immigrants; most face inordinate challenges in navigating the health care system. Learning from our patients and serving as their advocate is among the most rewarding qualities of being a Keck student. As a second-year student, I was awarded an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship that allowed me to start an advanced care planning program for elderly patients at LAC+USC. This experience connected me to a group of like-minded peers, both within and outside of the Keck community.

When I wanted to develop skills in global public health research to effect population-level change, my mentors at the Keck School were very supportive in my pursuit of MPH training in Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I focused on global adolescent reproductive health research in India, Nepal, Rwanda and, currently, Kenya. I applied for an additional year of funding for global health research, and my mentors at the Keck School expressed ongoing support. For the past year, I’ve been working as a United States Agency for International Development–supported research fellow at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare and FHI 360 in Eldoret, Kenya, on a community health volunteer-led health education and microfinance program that seeks to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes among pregnant and parenting adolescents. These experiences have not only allowed me to clarify my career goals but have set me on an exciting path towards accomplishing them.

When I was choosing a medical school, I could not have imagined the path that lay before me or where these experiences would lead me. Thanks to the incredible support of my friends and mentors at the Keck School, the freedom to embrace a nontraditional path and the opportunity to learn from our patients at LAC+USC, I’ve been able to not only engage in my local community but also to expand my reach far beyond borders I could have never possibly imagined.