Carla Vanessa Valenzuela
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Age: 23

 "Personally and professionally, winning the Kean Fellowship is an honor."

I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where I went to Overbrook School for elementary school and MLK Magnet High School for my secondary education. When the time came to go to college, I chose the University of Maryland Baltimore County. After graduating, I returned to my charming and quaint hometown to study medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where I am currently a second year student.

My plan is to work with vulnerable populations, especially those suffering from infectious diseases. Whether these populations would be abroad or domestic, I am unsure of, but I would like to work in an academic setting and have various international collaborations wherever I am.

What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future plans?
Personally and professionally, winning the Kean Fellowship is an honor. It is a very special award to receive and I feel so honored and humbled that the Kean Fellowship Committee believes in my potential as a future leader in medicine! I am extremely grateful and look forward to combining my interests in global health with a surgical career. .

Describe some of your most memorable travel or work experiences.
Flying over the Nazca Lines in Peru--the mysterious geoglyphs whose origin and purpose still remain unknown and have been designated as a World Heritage UNESCO site. The only way to view the lines is by plane. When I told my parents that I wanted to see the Nazca lines, they were concerned. But once I arrived to Nazca, I took a deep breath, realized that you only live once and got on board. Seeing those gorgeous designs, mixed with a fear of crashing, was an unforgettable experience. I couldn’t help wondering how these geoglyphs had been so perfectly created, how they could have stood the test of time, what they could have meant to the Nazca civilization, and what could they mean now for the rest of the world?

What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
Do a research project in Global Health! You learn so much from interacting with different cultures and it helps you better understand the diverse array of patients you will experience as a clinician. Furthermore, should you do your project in Tropical Medicine, it will expose you to diseases that you will rarely encounter in the U.S. and it will open your eyes to the diversity of infections that really do exist. In a sense, the world is like a single village, and many of these diseases will inevitably cross geographical frontiers. Thus, by being exposed to them early on, you will be better prepared for your career as a physician.