LL alumna graduates from medical school

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A local high school graduate is off making her place in the world.

Submitted photo: Camellia Louisa Hernandez, a 2004 Los Lunas High School alumna, graduated with her Doctor of Medicine degree from Tufts Medical School in Boston.

Camellia Louisa Hernandez, a 2004 Los Lunas High School alumna, graduated with her Doctor of Medicine degree last month from Tufts Medical School in Boston.

She has begun her doctor’s residency at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for the U.S. Army.

Her field of particular interest is internal medicine, and she wants to incorporate international medicine into her career.

During her first year of medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, she interned in rural Panama, shadowing doctors as they made their rounds among all the different clinics.

“That was a really interesting experience, because I just started really getting a sense for what medicine was like in the United States,” Hernandez said. “And then seeing what it was like in Panama, in the rural communities … What’s interesting to see is what you do with a limited amount of resources.”

Luckily, she took Spanish during her high school years, but she really learned conversational Spanish while immersed in the language in Panama.

Hernandez still keeps in touch with her high school Spanish teacher Michelle Candelaria.

Later, in Nicaragua, on a medical mission trip where she treated her own patients, she had an epiphany.

“I was just so happy that I could converse without an interpreter,” Hernandez said. “And I just couldn’t believe I didn’t have to think about my Spanish anymore.”

She was in a very rural area without running water.

“They had just gotten electricity a couple of months ago,” she said. “So we had, like, one light bulb in our clinic, no air conditioning and it was very hot.”

Unlike in the United States, she had to do all her own lab work. She couldn’t order tests by computer.

“In Nicaragua, we had to do everything ourselves,” she said.

After graduating in 2008 with a bachelor’s in molecular and cellular biology, she was awarded a full scholarship through the Honor ROTC program to continue her studies at Tufts.

She has a knack for math, she said, and went through all the honors classes during high school.

“I loved science, specifically, I had Mr. Cole as my biology teacher in high school, and he just made everything so interesting,” she said. “But the class was so challenging. I remember that kind of was my first hint of an upper level science class, and it was definitely one of my favorite classes.”

The high school had just introduced Advanced Placement classes when Hernandez was in her senior year, so she really didn’t know what they were or understand the importance of them, she said.

“But when I got to John Hopkins, everybody had taken five or six AP classes, passed the exams and were advancing farther,” Hernandez said. “I really had to catch myself up. I felt like I was studying twice as hard because I didn’t have the same educational background as they did.”

Hernandez really didn’t realize the magnitude of the school that her grades won her acceptance in. She also found that her fellow students had a far more expansive vocabulary and ability to write.

“When I went to John Hopkins, I realized most of these kids had come from prep schools, and these incredible high schools,” she said. “I absolutely had to work harder to succeed there.”

She spent a lot of time in the tutoring office and library, but she knew to ask for help when she needed it. She was always asking people to read her papers, she said.

“But I have self-motivation,” she said. “I really want to do well. I love medical school for learning things I really want to learn — learning about the human body, about different diseases, about exactly how to treat them.”

The contract for the scholarship she was awarded committed her to work for the U.S. Army after graduating with her MD.

She is the daughter of Louis and Margaret L. Hernandez.

Her father recently retired from Sandia National Laboratories, and her mother is currently employed at Tomé Elementary School as a language pathologist.

Hernandez was awarded the Legion of Valor Award in 2008 for her academic achievements and demonstration of leadership skills.

“This award is received by only a small handful of ROTC students throughout the country each year,” her father said.

Addressing younger graduates, Hernandez said, “Follow your dreams, but realize that the road is never going to be easy. Never give up … Everybody has obstacles, I didn’t slide by. I worked very hard, but you can do whatever you want if you’re willing to put the work in.”


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.