Faun Botor sees a direct link between the adversity that led to her spending a substantial amount of time with doctors and nurses during her youth and her decision to pursue a medical degree now that she is in her 30s.
A member of the charter class of the UNLV School of Medicine, Botor had a troubled childhood. At 7, she and her younger brother lived in a car with their mother in Florida. Food was scarce. At other times they moved from apartment to apartment. Eventually, they landed in Nevada.
My mother “was a very happy drunk, even though we were pretty poor,” Botor said. “I had to take on a lot of responsibility, taking care of my younger brother, cleaning, cooking, and paying bills.”
When Botor was 14, her mother, who worked as a casino dealer and housekeeper, died following years of alcohol abuse. (Botor’s father was in and out of their lives and eventually died of a cocaine overdose when Botor was in her 20s.)
As difficult as they were, those years were to have some positive impact on Botor’s life.
“When I was in eighth grade, my mother was in and out of the hospital due to liver and renal failure. As weird as it sounds, when I was there, I felt at home. I loved being around the nurses and physicians...the smell of a hospital.
“That was when I knew I wanted to become a doctor,” she said. “Over the years, though, that dream went on the back burner as I explored other career paths, got married, and started a family.
Learning to Thrive
Even when things were at their roughest during her childhood, Botor didn’t let her schoolwork suffer. “It was my escape. I wanted to do well. I always found time to study.”
Eventually, she and her brother moved in with an aunt and uncle. “We went from being poor to strictly middle class. There was a lot more structure, a lot of rules. Neither of my parents had a college degree, but my aunt went back to college and became a school teacher later in life, which showed me that it’s never too late to follow your dream.”
She first pursued her own dream at Clark High School where her aunt and uncle helped her get into the math and technology program. Botor was an all “A” student, graduating as valedictorian. She then entered UNR on scholarship. There, she tutored students, worked as a lifeguard, and taught swim classes for spending money.
But after two years, she decided she wanted to see Europe. She taught English there and also met her future husband, Daniel, who is from Poland.
Back to College
Married and back in the United States, Botor picked up her college studies again. In 2011, she earned a bachelor of science degree in comprehensive medical imaging from UNLV, graduating with a 3.8 grade point average.
“I just wanted to get a degree so we could start a family,” she recalled. Today, she and Daniel have three children, Alexander, 6, Matthew, 2, and Lillian, 1. Alexander has been diagnosed with autism. While he has been making progress, his parents doubt that he ever will be able to live independently.
“I eventually became a sonographer and worked in ob/gyn and perinatology (high-risk obstetrics) for a few years before my passion for medicine became reignited at the age of 26,” she said.
What reignited that dream was her 18-month-old son’s need for surgery to correct a congenital hernia.
“Dr. (Clare) Close was his physician, and before he went back to the (operating room) I was so anxious, scared, and all the other emotions a first-time mom feels when their child is about to go into surgery,” Botor recalled. “(Close) came to my husband and me and explained everything in such a calm and competent way that all our fears were alleviated. At that moment I realized that I wanted to have that kind of influence with patients and parents. I knew then that I wanted to pursue medical school.
She was accepted to the UNLV School of Medicine with a full scholarship from Gary and Debra Ackerman to make her studies possible. “They are amazing people with big hearts. I get to see them quite often.”
Now entering her second year of studies at the School of Medicine, Botor plans to eventually go into pediatrics or obstetrics and gynecology. “I’ll be 37 or 38 when I’m done, but that still gives me around 25 years of helping people as a doctor.”
She’ll also be sharing her life experience with young people.
“I want them to know that there may be hardships in life but you can find a way to a better future.”