AMA Foundation Assists Dedicated Surgeon-to-Be
Hard work and focus helped overcome cultural and language barriers
With the help of the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation, Catalina Soto’s lifelong ambition of becoming a surgeon is coming true.
“I am truly thankful for the AMA Foundation donors’ kindness and generosity. I also promise them that upon starting my career, I, too, will give back and financially aid other minority students in their journey,” said AMA Foundation Minority Scholars Award recipient, Ms. Soto, who is a third-year medical student at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM).
A native Colombian who immigrated to the United States at age 15 to realize her dream, Ms. Soto worked double shifts on weekends and took English classes at night while attending high school. She stayed with distant relatives for a few months until she was able to rent a room and strike out on her own at age 16.
“Being the first in my family to immigrate to the United States, I lacked the support system necessary to succeed in a foreign country: family, finances, and the knowledge of a new language, culture, and educational system,” explained Ms. Soto, who has wanted to follow in her physician father’s footsteps since she was 12 years old.
Ms. Soto’s drive and dedication have helped her overcome a variety of barriers. Although she graduated from high school with honors, she had to fight her way into the advanced placement high school classes that she was barred from taking because of her limited English proficiency.
“Since childhood I’ve known I wanted to be a doctor. I feel passionate about surgery. I want to use my hands to work on people’s bodies to save or better their lives,” said Ms. Soto.
This ambition has always kept Ms. Soto focused on her goal. Despite her guidance counselor’s assessment that her goals were unreasonable, she found a pre-med undergraduate program for minority students at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Without assistance she researched and applied for scholarships.
As a student at Montclair State University, Ms. Soto was recognized both locally and nationally. She appeared on the dean’s list at Montclair State University and the National Dean’s list, and was a recipient of the a scholarship from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. She also received the Montclair State University Outstanding Leadership Award and the Academic Achievement Award from the State of New Jersey Commission on Higher Education.
While an undergraduate, Ms. Soto volunteered at a women’s center, worked as a resident assistant, served as the vice-president of the International Student Organization and was an active member of the Minority Association of Pre-med Students and the Latin American Student Organization. She also played on the women’s tennis team and was recognized by the National Student-Athlete Honor Society.
While attending medical school at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ms. Soto currently is nominated as Osteopathic Student of the Year and for the prestigious American Osteopathic Association Presidential Memorial Leadership Award. She received the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, Inc., Scholarship; the Student Osteopathic Medical Association Award for Commitment to Diversity in Medical Education; the Student National Medical Association Kaplan Scholarship; and recognition from Ohio University and the American Osteopathic Association Bureau on International Osteopathic Medical Education and Affairs for her research project in El Salvador.
Ms. Soto’s medical school activities include teaching assistant for osteopathic manipulative medicine, mentor for the Minority Association of Pre-med Students at Ohio University. The secretary and national liaison for OU-COM's surgery club and student ambassador for OU-COM’s admissions office, she is a member of the Student National Medical Association, the Student Osteopathic Medical Association, the Student Osteopathic Surgical Association, and OU-COM’s Cultural Programming Committee. Ms. Soto also volunteered at OU-COM's Professional Development in Cultural Competency Certificate Program, at numerous health screenings and at OU-COM’s free clinic.
Gifts to support the AMA Foundation’s scholarships may be made online.