Monday, February 21, 2011

RGC Native on His Way to Medical School

“I was struck in the head and collapsed in the middle of the homecoming football game,” said South Texas College alum Leo Lopez of a defining experience playing football during his senior year at Rio Grande City High School. “I was temporarily paralyzed, blind in one eye and a blood clot formed on my brain. My brain swelled so much that I had to have surgery to relieve the pressure. I found myself alone and scared in ICU, but I never stopped having faith. I was determined to get back on the road to my goals.”

Through sheer hard work and determination, Lopez was soon back at school and on to his normal, rigorous schedule. When he graduated from high school, he also earned his Associate of Science in Biology from STC through the college’s Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy. He went on to take additional courses at the college to also earn an Associate of Science in Chemistry. All this was done with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor - a goal that comes from not only his own experiences as a patient, but those of his mother.
“Growing up, I learned the value of life at a young age,” Lopez said. “My mother battled cancer on and off for 13 years. And through it all, she never gave up and was always working to better herself and she even went back to school when she was sick, just to earn a living to support us. She set the precedence for me to always work hard.

“So when I had the opportunity to earn my degrees and get on the pathway to becoming a doctor, I seized it,” he continued. “I want to help patients like my mother deal with their realities and never give up.”

He went on to enroll at Texas A&M University at College Station, where he confronted the life of a small town boy at a big university. But the college-knowledge he gained at STC served him well.

“You can feel like a small fish in a big pond,” he said. “But the coursework at STC was rigorous and prepared me for what I would face in the classroom. I also took workshops on time management and had tons of experiences outside the classroom that exposed me to what life at a big university would be like. It was all very valuable to prepare me for the transition and I couldn’t put a value on it.”

At TAMU, Lopez went on to become the first Rio Grande Valley native in the school’s history to serve as the president for the American Medical Students Association. He was also selected to serve as the National Premedical Director for the American Medical Student Association Region 9, overseeing 19 Chapters in the states of Texas and Oklahoma.

He was just one of 80 students from across the nation selected by The University of Washington School of Medicine for a summer medical internship program. He spent six weeks with a mentor at a medical school in Seattle, Washington, taking medical school courses and observing in emergency and operating rooms.

Lopez will graduate from TAMU with his Bachelor of Science in Bio-Medical Science in May 2011 and has already been accepted into The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine.

“I believe that any goal you have in life can be accomplished if you are willing to put in the time and effort,” Lopez concluded. “There are going to be obstacles, but that’s common to everybody. If you want to be a doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist, you can do it. South Texas College gives you the tools you need to be successful. It’s just up to the person to put in the effort.”

He begins his studies to become a doctor in summer 2011.

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