Maria Zavala Garcia believes in integrating community service with healthcare, thanks to experiences in CBS and the North Star STEM Alliance.
New Brighton, MN
What makes CBS special to you?
I have an appreciation for CBS that has only grown during my time here. I chose CBS because of the resources that help students grow as citizens and aspiring physicians. The support I’ve received from CBS through campus leadership positions, advisors, and the liberal education components of my STEM education empower me to think critically about the social structures and institutions that impact the scientific questions we’re asking today.
Outside of classes and study sessions, what keeps you busy?
I get a real sense of joy from being a Dean’s Scholar peer mentor. Fostering connections among first-year CBS students, who are developing as leaders while navigating the college experience, has been an amazing opportunity. I used to be a mentor in the Girls Inc. Eureka! program that aims to empower young women in STEM, a mission close to my heart. Aside from that, being the vice president of finance for my multicultural sorority (Sigma Lambda Gamma) has kept me busy as we look to grow and recruit amazing women into our chapter.
What has surprised you about distanced learning?
I feel grateful that I could still connect with new peers in my classes over Zoom! I still have opportunities to meet people and found that professors adapted fairly well to delivering material virtually. Outside of class, I’ve found that I have more free time, which I used to form better study habits and a more organized schedule.
How has your involvement with North Star STEM Alliance shaped your journey?
Joining the North Star STEM Alliance in my first year helped me find a space where I felt supported and surrounded by other minority students in STEM. All of us navigated our first year together with similar experiences, so I got to build connections with my peers as well as learn about different resources offered by the U that helped me prepare for professional school. The program helped me earn my first research experience the summer after my first year, and is why I have learned more about professional degrees that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It made the U feel smaller and I can’t recommend it enough!
How is community service important to you? Do you see an intersection between your career choice and service?
I am passionate about integrating community service into my life — both personally and professionally as a physician. Giving back to the community is an integral part of developing concrete progress for a more equitable world. A goal isn’t achievable if you can’t visualize it and the systematic barriers that affect people. This is why I seek positions where I help individuals from historically marginalized communities, like myself.
There is a huge overlap between community service and the work of a physician. As a physician, you have a degree of power and knowledge that not everyone has access to, so community members seeking healthcare will instill trust in you. Being able to develop that trust by working to improve the healthcare system in communities you serve in is a responsibility that all physicians should bear in mind when carrying out their duties.
What's a piece of advice for other CBS students?
I think a lot of people don’t talk about imposter syndrome in competitive environments, like STEM fields. I felt that a lot during my first year in CBS, but I’m grateful that I’m still here and have challenged myself in ways that have helped me grow.