Story of Natalie Corrilo
After applying to 30 medical schools and receiving zero interviews, many encouraged me to pursue a different career … but it is when you push through those moments that you are able to grow as a person and prevail.Natalie, Medical Class of 2019, GEMS Class of 2014-2105
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, a socially, legally and economically challenged Mexican-American community, I vowed not to fall victim to gangs, drugs or teen pregnancy. Both of my parents immigrated from Mexico, and due to their legal status, their jobs did not pay much but enough to put food on the table. I remember the day when my mother needed extra help and asked me to go with her to work. I recall looking at her, down on her knees, scrubbing the floors explaining to me her weekend chores as she smiled proudly. That day, I saw sweat running down her forehead and briefly experienced her world of physical and mental exhaustion but more importantly, I saw humility in her face and in her work. Although my parents never went to school, they always instilled in my sisters and I, the meaning of “hard work and dedication.” At eighteen, my identical twin sister and I embarked on a life changing journey called Dartmouth College leaving my parents, friends, and community behind. I immersed myself into the wonderful world of academia, co-curricular activities and social events with peers who were extremely different from everyone I had ever known. College was a “perfect” world and when I returned home during holidays and breaks, my family and community brought me back to the “reality” of my people.
During my summers I volunteered as an interpreter at the Los Angeles County Hospital, and working with many families reminded me that culture, language, socio-economic status, and education affect the way the underserved address health issues. I will never forget the day I translated for a pediatrician and observed in a father’s face the same helplessness and confusion I always saw in my mother’s eyes. Although the doctor spoke very little Spanish, I witnessed how a doctor’s compassion, patience and knowledge can change a patient’s life despite a communication barrier. Experiences like these made me aware of the demand for doctors who can provide quality healthcare to underprivileged communities. I was determined to become Dr. Corrilo. However, at Dartmouth, I struggled as a pre-medical student and doubted my ability to succeed. I was committed and studied long hours, but soon realized studying for science required a different set of study skills. I worked hard but graduated with a below average science G.P.A. Post-graduation I worked as a laboratory technician and continued pursuing medical school. After applying to 30 medical schools, and receiving zero interviews, many encouraged me to pursue a different career. I also questioned myself, but what kept me going was my hope to one day makes a difference in patients’ lives who have been abandoned by our healthcare system; patients like my parents, my neighbors, my friends. In 2014, I was admitted to the GEMS Program at Georgetown University. The GEMS program gave me a second chance to demonstrate that I can finally catch up and surpass the medical schools’ expectations. Surrounded by other students who encountered similar hardships and have the same dream, I was in the ideal environment where we were able to help and learn from each other. The GEMS Program has allowed me to grow as a student and professional.
In May 2015, I received the call from Dean Mitchell welcoming me to Georgetown SOM. That moment I realized that there were many barriers during my journey into medical school, but it was adversity that molded my perseverance and determination to improve the health of underserved communities. Georgetown SOM opened its doors to me, and its curriculum will allow me to become a well-rounded physician, and leader with the knowledge, skills and values needed to promote change and holistically treat my patients. My humble beginnings are something I cherish because without them, I would not be the person I am today. I failed many times and often doubted my ability to succeed, but it is when you push through those moments that you are able to grow as a person and prevail.
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”Winston Churchill