This summer, salutatorian Brenda Nuyen wants to learn how to surf. By recently mastering skateboarding, she feels up to the challenge.
"I've been told this summer is my last free summer until retirement," said Nuyen, who majored in biological sciences and minored in psychology.
But that doesn’t bother her. This fall, the Huntington Beach native will dive headfirst into medical school at the University of California, San Diego, with the decision to trade in her free summers for anatomy books coming after careful deliberation.
“I had been considering medicine, but first I wanted to prove to myself that this is what I wanted my future to hold,” she said.
And that, Nuyen added, is the best thing about USC: She was able to see what it was like to be a doctor before ever putting on a white coat.
A student in the prestigious Baccalaureate/M.D. Program through USC College and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Nuyen had the opportunity to shadow physicians, work in the community and get to know the ins and outs of working in a hospital in a major urban setting.
“It really opened my eyes to what I was heading into,” she said.
Nuyen also threw herself into the many volunteer opportunities available to budding medical students. She was a founding member of the Community Health Involvement Project, where she helped train students to provide free health screenings around the North University Park neighborhood. She was also active in Health for Life, which works to bring health education to elementary and junior high schools, as well as the Trojan Health Volunteers program.
“Being a part of these projects has shown me that this is definitely what I want to do,” she said. “I love working with the families and seeing how much they care about their health.”
Nuyen will take her service commitment to San Diego, where she plans to work with UCSD’s various service organizations, including Healing Hearts Across Borders, where she and fellow medical students set up a medical clinic in Tijuana for a weekend.
And when it comes to choosing what type of medicine to practice, Nuyen’s years at USC have taught her that experience counts.
“I can’t say no to any field yet until I can explore it,” she said.