Valeria Robayo brings her own twist to the pre-med experience

Valeria Robayo brings her own twist to the pre-med experience

From an early age, Valeria Robayo took the lead in her own upbringing. When he was 3 years old, his family moved from Bogotá, Colombia to Houston, Texas to seek better opportunities for Robayo, and later, his sister. She spent her summer days at the local library while her parents worked to support the family. Her parents, who were teachers, encouraged her to make her own lesson plans and study what interested her.

“Some of the books that most attracted me to the library were the anatomy textbooks,” says Robayo. “At that time, my father was postponing elective knee surgery, having to endure significant pain as we could not afford the medical bills. There was a part of me that wanted to see what was going on with his knee, so I would look at the anatomy of that.

This experience sparked an interest in medicine, and Robayo describes it as his “first step on a very long journey”. In high school, Robayo took a class where she had the opportunity to shadow over 40 different departments at her local hospital.

“At the time, I was still narrowing my career interests,” Robayo says. “I was really interested in medicine because it puts science at the service of others. I also realized that medicine is a system and not just a patient-doctor interaction. A career in medicine would allow me to combine my interests in science and to serve my community.

The people-centered aspect of medicine informs Robayo’s choice of study at MIT, where she majored in management with a minor in biology and German. To some, her major might come as a surprise to someone who is in the process of applying to medical school, but Robayo sees things differently.

“I wanted to pursue something that would give me a hands-on perspective while strengthening my scientific foundation before going to medical school. I really wanted a college with a business or management major,” says Robayo, noting that MIT Sloan School of Management was a big factor in her college decision. “I wanted a place where research was really supported and where the student culture was really creative. MIT has the perfect combination of that.

Robayo followed through on his desire to have a comprehensive perspective throughout his time at MIT. She pursued wet lab research in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and Shared Decision Making research at Massachusetts General Hospital, honing her technical and people skills. She also completed an internship with the US Government Accountability Office through MIT Washington’s summer internship program, contributing to an audit of the Veteran’s Health Administration and gaining an understanding of how politics affects medicine in the states. -United.

Her most ambitious project to date is Resource Hub, a non-profit organization she founded in the summer of 2021. Drawing inspiration from her own experiences and motivated by the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Resource Hub is a free online service that matches the underserved. community members with local services available to them.

“I wanted to build a project that combines my interests in management and medicine because I like learning through experience,” says Robayo. “This was inspired by both my personal experience as an immigrant to the United States and my difficulties in finding educational resources, as well as my experiences of observing and realizing that many patients arrive with illnesses very serious events that could have been avoided, they sought care and took advantage of many available resources that they simply did not know about because they were very busy or because of language difficulties.

Robayo was named the winner of the Reimagine Challenge for her efforts and was also able to secure funding from the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund to continue developing Resource Hub.

Learn a language to open doors

Although she knew from the start what her major would be, Robayo wasn’t sure she’d major in German until after she arrived at MIT. She had started learning the language in high school, choosing it because she saw potential career opportunities in Germany.

“There were many reasons to learn German,” says Robayo. “I speak Spanish and English and wanted to learn a new language. I wanted it to help me further my career and discover a culture that interested me, and I noticed that there were a lot of opportunities in Germany related to medicine, medical devices, etc. I think it would open a lot of doors for me.

At first, Robayo was motivated to take German classes at MIT to meet the language requirements of MISTI, but she found herself liking the teaching staff and the style of the classes. Although her MISTI travel opportunity, scheduled for summer 2020, was ultimately cancelled, Robayo continued to study language and culture and recently secured a return flight to Germany after winning first place in the MIT German Studies Excellence Award.

“Learning a language is a way to show respect for the culture you’re working with,” says Robayo. “I got to meet a lot of great instructors and people through different things I did.”

In addition to taking a variety of courses in the Global Languages ​​program, Robayo also founded the German Language Learners Club and attended the German American Conference at Harvard University. In the latter, she organized panels on artificial intelligence in medicine and intellectual property rights, and was responsible for the organization’s diversity.

Looking ahead, Robayo is in the process of applying to medical school, where she hopes to study to become a surgeon.

“I want to make sure I have an open mind,” says Robayo. Asked about her future plans, she speaks in broad strokes to suit the scale of her ambitions.

“Definitely a job where I’m in the operating room a lot, where I’m a doctor, researcher and teacher, where I’m able to relate to people and work in teams to achieve new levels of innovation, efficiency , and quality of health care A career where I serve people inside and outside the clinic.

“Medicine is the study of people, both in terms of the human body and in terms of the relationships you have with them. I’m just excited to take these next steps.

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