A big round of applause for Luisa Lechuga, who recently graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in biology, and not just one but two minors! (Luisa minored in Chemistry and Psychology.) That puts her one step closer to her dream career: pediatrician.
“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a little kid,” says Luisa. Her desire to pursue medicine as a career only intensified when she got into high school. Luisa excelled in her math and science courses at Pennsauken High School—another sign that medicine might be the ideal career. She was in the Renaissance Program at Pennsauken.
Luisa knew she wanted to be a doctor but did not realize she wanted to become a pediatrician until after she worked with children and realized she enjoys being around them. Her goal is to establish a practice in a lower income community, and help the children and families live long and healthy lives. She “wants to make sure all children are safe and heard.” She also likes the idea of increasing diversity in medicine. At present, only 5.8 percent of active physicians are Hispanic.
At Rutgers, Luisa started as a psychology major, but switched to biology. College was difficult in the beginning, says Luisa. “I am a first-generation college student so it took a minute to figure everything out.” Fortunately, she had lots of support. Some of it came from the staff and students in the Rutgers EOF (Educational Opportunity Fund) program Luisa was enrolled in. “They were definitely a big support.” Even more support was provided by Luisa’s mother and uncle, her two biggest cheerleaders. “They were always making sure I was staying on top of things,” she says.
At Rutgers, Luisa’s favorite courses were “neurobiology, organic chemistry, and definitely psychology.” And while her undergraduate courses are behind her, Luisa is studying as hard as ever this summer. This time, her focus is the Medical College Admissions Test, typically referred to as the MCATs. Almost all medical schools in the US require those who plan to enter medical school to send their MCAT scores as part of the application. Luisa will become the first person in her family to apply to medical school.
But first, Luisa plans to take a gap year. She is working with her career coach, Tina Anino, to identify relevant, paying internships. Luisa says she wants to get some more research exposure and spend some more time in the medical field. In the meantime, Luisa is finishing out a training room internship at Hopeworks. She says she came to Hopeworks at the urging of Corey Thorpe, who thought that training in technology and participation in the Hopeworks community would be good for Luisa. “Turns out he was right,” she says.
For many young adults, carrying an internship at Hopeworks on top of completing a college major and two minors would be enough to fill the schedule. But not for Luisa. She, her mother, and her brothers—John, Peter, and Eduardo—run an informal animal rescue in their home. They are constantly sheltering, feeding, fostering, and seeking good homes for abandoned cats and dogs in the neighborhood. Luisa says they were inspired by her grandmother, who has always taken care of Camden’s feral and stray kittens and cats.