Health

María Cecilia Abreu, the young Puerto Rican promise of medicine and public health

His greatest motivation to study medicine was to help his grandfather heal his wounds from skin cancer.

María Cecilia Abreu, a member of the incoming class of 2022 at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Photo: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Maria Cecilia Abreu She is the first in her family to train as a doctor and everything arose through a few events, but the most impressive was accompanying her paternal grandfather to face a rare case of skin cancer, “I remember being surprised by what professionals could do doctors,” he told the magazine Medicine and Public Health from the University of Wisconsin.

Abreu González entered medical school as a member of the 2022 class of the Faculty of Medicine and Public Health from the University of Wisconsin. The young woman reflected on the culture, her family and the influence she has had from her grandfather and her mother, whom she sees as “another amazing role model.”

The family of Maria Cecilia Abreu is part of the history of Puerto Rico, since her grandmother was the first woman elected governor, while her mother, María Elena Calderón, a prominent Puerto Rican lawyer and civic leader, was appointed first lady during that period of government. A fact that is also part of the character of the young student, who witnessed the humanistic and sensitive work of her family in the face of the needs of all sectors of the population.

That same sensibility led her to spend more than 500 hours volunteering at a Milwaukee hospital, filling her resume with activities she was passionate about.

Decisive experiences in his future with medicine

The young medical student recounted in detail what happened with her grandfather, a fact that led her to be close to her future profession from an early age. “I was more than happy to help him and put cream on his wound. He told me I had to be a doctor. And I said, ‘Yes, I’m going to be a doctor and I’ll take care of you,’ but I didn’t know anything about the training or how long it would take to get in. to medicine.”

His grandfather passed away when he was in tenth grade, putting a momentary halt on his desire to be a doctor. However, a couple of years later, in 2016, witnessing a terrorist attack in Nice, France, allowed him to reconnect with his desire to be a doctor.

María Cecilia Abreu González with her grandfather, Francisco Xavier González. Photo: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

After her White Coat Ceremony in August 2022, María Cecilia Abreu González (center) posed on the UW-Madison campus with her mother (left) and sister. Photo: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“I struggled for a while, but I started to realize that it’s a blessing to be able to help others. My experience watching first responders help people in France made me realize that this is what I want to do,” he said. .

Challenges and lessons

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Abreu González began to see how health disparities were causing members of the Latino and Black communities to die from the novel coronavirus at higher rates than other populations. This demonstrated how valuable the integration of public health and medicine can be.

She says the SMPH’s emphasis on this intersection of medicine and public health was a big draw. Because she wants to go back to Puerto Rico to practice medicine, Abreu González knew that this type of training would be valuable. Furthermore, she says that she was the only school that put her in contact with the Office of Multicultural Affairs even before she decided to enroll.

“The people I met at UW-Madison knew that I could feel different from the majority of the student population and they wanted to make sure that I felt comfortable and had a sense of community even before I joined,” shares Abreu González. “I thought this was very important and reflected the health equity and public health missions of the school.”

“Thinking about being in Wisconsin was strange to me at first because it seemed so far from my island,” says Abreu González. “But I knew I was deciding to go to Marquette because of my grandfather, and I ended up loving him. And now that I’m going to College of Medicine and Public Health from the UW, I have always thought that he has been with me, guiding me. Staying in Wisconsin, I still feel connected to him.”

This interview was originally published on the website of the Faculty of Medicine and Public Health from the University of Wisconsin, and was written by staff writer Kaine Korzekwa.

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