Human of Medicine: Maria

Maria, with boyfriend Ryan at their West Point graduation in 2017.

Maria, with boyfriend Ryan at their West Point graduation in 2017.

The basics

Maria, 23 years old.  

I was born in a small town in Brazil called Barra Mansa, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. My family and I moved to Brockton, MA 19 years ago. I graduated from the United States Military Academy (aka West Point) in 2017 and have since been a student at UMASS Medical School. 

What motivates you? Or in other words, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

My parents. 19 years ago, my parents immigrated to the United States and I owe where I am and who I am today to them. There are no two people that I am prouder of, and I can only hope that by achieving my dreams, my future children will think the same.

What brought you to medicine? Please give the real, unfiltered reason, if you are willing.

I love soldiers and the idea that I will be able to care for them and for their families one day is all the motivation I could ever need to pursue medicine.

Describe your perfect day.

Bacon egg and cheese bagel for breakfast. Long bike ride.

Describe your proudest moment. Why did you choose this one? 

Graduating from West Point. It was undoubtedly the tallest mountain I’ve ever climbed. It was physically, mentally and emotionally challenging, but it was well worth the relationships and lessons I walked away with.

Is there something about yourself you wish you could improve? Why?

If you ever met my father, he would be the first to say he is living the American dream—unfortunately that dream came at a cost. In the first few years of living in the United States, my parents could not afford daycare, and I was at work with them constantly. In fact, if you ever visited the 7/11 on Oak St. in Brockton, I probably rang up your items at the cash register. As a result, I never learned to swim or ride a bike as a child. Children make everything look easy, but let me assure you, learning to ride a bike or swim as an adult is much harder—you fear so much. You know there’s a risk of falling, of drowning, of hurting yourself. It is also slightly embarrassing to practice and fail at either activity in public.

I am happy to say that as of last year, I can now do both (thanks to my incredibly patient friends and boyfriend), but I would like to get better. I want to be good enough at both to be able to compete in a triathlon.

Share a happy memory.

My best friend Megan and I travelled to Peru for 2.5 weeks over Christmas vacation a few years ago—we actually spent Christmas day walking up to Machu Picchu. We climbed down the Colca Canyon and up Rainbow mountain. We spent a night on self-fashioned floating islands on Lake Titicaca with a native Uru family. We ziplined across the Sacred Valley.

What are you most afraid of?

Failure. My father’s version of ‘Don’t cry over spilled milk’ is ‘What do you do now that the milk has been spilled?’ and while I learned my toughest and most rewarding lessons from my biggest spills, the moment in which I realize the milk is on the floor, is never great.

How do you keep your mind sharp and your body strong? Do you exercise? Do you read? Do you do crossword puzzles?

I love anything outdoors—running, hiking, kayaking. I have also recently started guided meditations. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The odds have been stacked against me and my family since we immigrated to the United States, but we dreamed the life that we have today into existence. No obstacle is impossible if you are willing to put in the work and having the confidence in knowing you can achieve your goals is half the battle.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your story! Have you ever been determined to learn a skill you did not have the chance to pick up as a child? Let us know in the comments. And make sure to “like” and share this post, if you found Maria’s story inspiring!