Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV student Addison “Addy” Guida, one of the first students to interview for a spot in the charter class, had long looked forward to the school’s first-ever Match Day, when students learn where they’ll do postgraduate residency training in their chosen specialties.
When that day came in March, however, this former star midfielder for the Rebel women’s soccer team, whose goal is to become an anesthesiologist, wasn’t at the Shadow Lane campus to get the news with the students she started school with.
She watched a UNLV-TV livestream of the event.
Life, in the form of Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, happened, delaying her dream from becoming a reality.
While her peers matched with robust residency programs both inside and outside Nevada, including at Ivy League schools and Stanford, USC, and UCLA on the West Coast, Guida could only watch.
While her peers matched with robust residency programs both inside and outside Nevada, including Ivy League schools and Stanford, USC and UCLA on the West Coast, Guida could only watch. Her voice quavers as she talks about not being there for Match Day, not graduating in May with her original class.
“It would have been nice to be with this group that I started out with,” she said. “I couldn’t help thinking ‘what if.’ But my excitement for what my classmates have accomplished overcame my personal sadness. They’ve laid down a foundation we can all be proud of.”
Twice in the last five years Guida has had to fight off Hodgkin lymphoma, the last time at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. There, she was told she had to undergo a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. Her best friend, UNLV medical student Lauren Hollifield, visited her frequently in the hospital.
“That meant a lot,” Guida said. “On Match Day I was so happy to see her and her husband (medical student Damien Medrano) got into the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania for residency.”
In the more than six months she spent in Texas, she said she was “sick beyond what I understood sick to be.” Scared, she says, “beyond comprehension,” she received months of nauseating chemotherapy.
“When admitted for my transplant, an anticipated three-week admission transformed into a hellish two-and-a-half month admission that included a nearly-always fatal liver complication from which my oncologist said in his 35 years of medicine he had never seen a patient survive. I was brought to the brink, and for whatever reason, my body rallied.”
She started medical school again in 2018, planning to graduate in 2022, just a year behind her original class. But the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted her to further delay her medical studies. Instead, she focused on completing an accelerated master's of public health degree at the UNLV School of Public Health. She now will earn her medical degree as a member of the class of 2023.
She believes her experience with cancer will make her a better physician.
“My experience as a patient taught me patience,” she said. “While working in the emergency department prior to getting sick, I often shared in the cynical attitudes of my co-workers toward seemingly irrelevant patient priorities — a dynamic that inevitably comes with the stress and necessary detachment required to be effective in that environment.
“I did not realize even remotely how important those ‘irrelevant priorities’ are to someone trying to plan their life around their health issues whilst being completely dependent on what one person, the physician, tells them. Knowing that there is someone looking out for you like they would look out for themselves is a comfort when you’re fighting for your life. I want to provide that for others.”