A Romance language is not an undergraduate major often associated with future medical school students.
But Lauren Hollifield, a member of the inaugural class of the UNLV School of Medicine, majored in Spanish at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles because she saw its usefulness no matter what profession she entered.
“I didn’t know (then) what field I would go into but I did know that the population was changing quickly and Spanish would likely be a language for many of the people I would be serving,” she said.
A graduate of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Hollifield, 25, said that going to both a high school and university run by Jesuits — an order of Catholic priests known around the world as social justice advocates — reinforced her deep-felt need to “help those who don’t have as much as you do...I want to help the underserved.”
Her decision to do that through medicine seems preordained. After all, her father, Dr. Rodney Hollifield, is a Las Vegas ophthalmologist and her mother, Charlene Day, holds a Ph.D.in public health and is the founder of Education for Quality Living, a Southern Nevada consulting firm dedicated to health promotion and disease prevention.
Volunteering in Nicaragua
But Hollifield said it wasn’t until she did volunteer work in Nicaragua in the summers during college — she trained as an emergency medical technician to help the Spanish-speaking populace — that she decided medicine would be the best way for her to help the underserved.
Though she minored in biochemistry as undergraduate, she realized she needed more background in the sciences. She enrolled in a two-year master of science program at Drexel University in Philadelphia that focused on biochemistry and pharmacology.
“I was prepared for medical school by my master’s,” she said. “It’s very doable for me now. It’s still very challenging but it would have been much more difficult without a solid foundation in science.”
Choosing a Specialty
She now is exploring which area of medicine will be her specialty. “I love the idea of merging prevention, the area of concentration of my mother, with intervention, which, of course, my father does.”
Hollifield, a former varsity lacrosse player in high school and college, still makes time for physical fitness. “I run three miles about three times a week and it makes me feel better.” She also makes time for sleep. “I still have to have eight hours of sleep a night. Some of my peers get by on four hours, but I can’t.”
And she volunteers with her mother’s consulting firm, going to churches as part of outreach efforts targeted at reducing the incidence of hypertension in the black community.
“I’m proud and honored to be in the first class of medical students at UNLV,” said Hollifield, who was accepted at five medical schools “I want to be part of the change in Nevada, changing the fact that we don’t have enough physicians. We are going to (bring) more access for all people... I want to give back to my community, to help the underserved in Las Vegas, the place I call home. ”