Everlyn Perez, a third-year student at the UW School of Medicine, had an epiphany one day while sitting in her “Introduction to Clinical Medicine” class.
“I looked up at my instructor, Dr. Maestas, who is a Latina woman like me, and I saw myself,” says Perez. “I thought, ‘Wow — I can’t believe I’ve made it this far! And, one day I’ll be up there teaching, just like her.’”
Perez was first inspired to pursue a career in medicine while earning an undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis. Exposure to other cultures opened her eyes to the healthcare disparities affecting the Latino population. “We disproportionally suffer from diseases like hypertension and obesity, and there’s also a lack of Latina physicians,” says Perez. “I began to ask myself how I could help achieve social justice for my community. That’s when I became interested in medicine.”
Her passion for social justice helped Perez secure the Paul W. Skinner Endowed Scholarship, which supports students who are interested in working with medically underserved communities. “Scholarships are what made medical school a reality for me,” she says. “It eases the pressure to realize I won’t have a huge financial burden when I graduate.”
As for her career, Perez is considering primary care, which was one of the reasons she choose to attend the UW School of Medicine. “Our primary-care program is one of the best in the country,” she says. She also was attracted to the variety of learning opportunities available for third- and fourth-year students through the School’s five-state WWAMI program, which offers educational programs not only in Washington, but also in Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
Being a third-year medical student doesn’t leave Perez much free time, but when she is able to finagle a few minutes to herself, she enjoys catching up with her family in Los Angeles and dancing to Latin-American music like banda, cumbia and merengue. Right now, however, she spends most of her days at Harborview Medical Center in an internal medicine clerkship, and she is grateful for the experience.
“So far it has been surprisingly rewarding yet extremely challenging,” Perez says. She and her colleagues are learning how to perform physical exams, talk to patients and make diagnoses. “The hours are long, and we don’t know a lot yet. But it sparks something inside of me to be able to care for sick people.”