Student Stories: 15-Year Journey to "Doctor"

Student Stories: 15-Year Journey to "Doctor"
Posted on 06/06/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Student Stories: 15-Year Journey to "Doctor"Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Lacy Manuelito can finally hang up her student cap—she has finished 15 years of college to become a pediatrician.

Manuelito graduated from high school in 2004 and graduated from the University of Arizona College of Medicine this spring, fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

“I always wanted to be a doctor, since I was a young girl—specifically a pediatrician, because of the relationship I had with my pediatrician,” said Manuelito, who is the daughter of Patricia and Dwayne Salway. “[I saw] the need in my Community hospital and how much doctors come and go. If someone from the Community became a doctor, they are more likely to stay working in the Community.”

Manuelito still has to complete a three-year residency, which she will serve in Tucson starting in June.

As she begins her career, Manuelito explained that it wasn’t easy to get to this point. Although she always knew what she wanted to do, she struggled with how to do it.

“The biggest thing for me was trying to figure out how to get to medical school. I didn’t have many mentors; I didn’t know where to find them or who to contact and talk to about what I needed to do to get [admitted] to medical school and how to be successful,” said Manuelito. “It wasn’t until a year before I started medical school that I found people to help me with all my questions and was able to be involved with the Association of American Indian Physicians.”

Manuelito was invited to participate in a pre-medical admission workshop, where she was able to meet other Native medical students and physicians. It was there where she made connections and found people to reach out to for advice and help down the road.

Manuelito explained that she enjoyed all of her 15 years of higher education, learning about cardiology, neurology, the musculoskeletal system and all the other systems of the body.

“Within each system we have to learn the anatomy, the physiology and pathology, down to individual cells … and how it all works together within the body,” Manuelito said.

“I enjoyed all of it. It’s difficult with all the content to learn to pass all of our exams and the national board exam,” said Manuelito. “But when we were able to see pediatric patients, it was all very rewarding.”

During her third-year outpatient clinic experience, she worked with pediatric patients. Interacting with young patients and helping with their care is the reward she gets out of all the hard work she put into school, she said.

Her advice to other Community members thinking about continuing their education after high school is to start volunteering someplace where they think they might want to work, even if they aren’t sure yet what they want for a career.

“If they might be interested in becoming a doctor or a nurse, there are so many different possibilities. It’s hard to get an idea of what you want to do if you don’t have any clue of what [the jobs are like]. Start shadowing doctors, reach out to people in those fields, find mentors and create relationships with them so they can navigate you through the process.”

Manuelito eventually wants to work with the Indian Health Service but is not sure yet which facility or location. Her long-term goal is to be involved with healthcare policy so she can help improve Native healthcare within the IHS at the Community, state or national level.

Manuelito thanks her husband, for being her biggest supporter.

“We’ve been together since high school, and he has always made it his job to support me so I can accomplish what I wanted,” said Manuelito. “He has always been the one to work and make sure I didn’t have to so I could finish medical school. He’s always made sure our child; house and I were taken care of.”

This article was written by Tasha Silverhorn and originally printed in the June 6, 2019, issue of O'odham Action News. It is republished here with permission.

The Salt River Higher Education Program is proud to help support students like Lacy Manuelito reach their academic and professional dreams. For more information about financial aid, contact the Higher Education Program today at 480-362-2547 or email [email protected]
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