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Road to medical school paved with stepping stones from ASU

April 01, 2010

A car accident 20 years ago set Adrienne Azurdia on the path toward medical school, though she was only three years old at the time. Her father was paralyzed in the accident, and his resulting health problems over the years gave her an exposure to medicine and a desire to help.

Today she is a first-year student on a full-ride scholarship at the prestigious Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, after graduating from ASU last spring. She was accepted into eight medical schools, getting assistance from ASU’s health professions advising office at every step of the process.

A graduate of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Azurdia followed her fascination by volunteering in the emergency room at Chandler Regional Hospital in 2005. Soon she was hired as a scribe, interviewing new patients to get their history and symptoms, learning how to interact with them and put them at ease. Over the next three years she became so proficient that she trained other scribes.

The opportunities to participate fully in community work and extracurricular activities were instrumental in her decision to attend ASU.

“ASU is an excellent school for a pre-med student to attend,” she says. “It’s in a prime location to create extremely well-rounded students, a quality that I’ve found medical schools see as very valuable. It’s central to an unbelievable number of different hospitals and other opportunities that students would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”

While at ASU she helped found Camp Kesem, a summer camp for children whose parents have cancer or have died from cancer. She helped raise $35,000 so that 40 children could attend the camp free of charge, and she spent a year planning their activities. As a camp counselor she helped kids heal by showing them empathy. She even let them cover her in shaving cream and honey.

Azurdia also became one of the most active members of the pre-med honors society, and she did undergraduate research in neuroscience. She immersed herself in taking science classes from top faculty, graduating in biology with a 4.0 GPA.

“ASU absolutely prepared me for medical school,” she says. “I got to take rare and interesting classes like ‘HIV and AIDS in Society,’ which has proven not only to be helpful in my immunology course, but has made my medical school classmates envious that their universities didn’t offer unique courses like that.

“Dr. Ian Gould’s organic chemistry classes were phenomenal. His enthusiasm and passion made me love a subject that I was nauseous to think about before I took his classes. After taking his courses, my ASU classmates and I didn’t even need to study for the organic chemistry component of the MCAT because he had prepared us so well.”

She says her first year at medical school been an amazing time, juggling multiple classes and activities. Her father is doing well, though he suffers from “empty nest” syndrome because she’s so far away. Azurdia hopes to return to Arizona after graduation to do her residency in emergency medicine.