HU Biology Graduate Tania Ruiz Accepted Into Medical School at UNM
When she was a young child growing up in Mexico City, New Mexico Highlands University biology graduate Tania Ruiz dreamed of becoming a doctor. She made a major step towards achieving her lifelong goal when the University of New Mexico accepted her into medical school on May 10.
Ruiz, who is 23, said her grandfather, an obstetrician, was her role model and gave her inspiration.
“My grandpa was well respected, and a very caring, good person who always had people at his house giving them free consultations,” Ruiz said. “When I was in high school, my grandpa was very sick and the whole family took care of him. That’s when I realized it was still my dream to become a doctor, and I would accomplish it no matter what. In 2006 I left my family and everything else to come here and chase my dream.”
Ruiz chased it with a vengeance, taking as many as 21 hours a semester to graduate in three years with a biology degree, earning a place on the academic honor roll and the dean’s list.
Along the way, she also found time to tutor other students in math, biology and chemistry, be a research assistant in a molecular biology lab at the university, and volunteer at the American Red Cross San Miguel Chapter. A competitive figure skater since the age of 10, Ruiz also established an ice skating club at Highlands.
Figure skating led her to the university. In the summer of 2006, Ruiz attended a figure skating camp in Santa Fe, and visited her aunt’s family in Las Vegas. She returned to Mexico City, telling her parents she wanted to attend Highlands as a premed student. They supported her decision and after securing her student visa, she enrolled fall semester 2006.
“Tania is a role model for students at Highlands in terms of her strong commitment and willingness to follow her dreams,” said biology professor Carol Linder. “She had to work doubly hard because English isn’t her first language. What I saw in Tania was an ability to go deeply into the biology material and persevere. I think she’ll do a great job in medical school.
“Tania always showed compassion for her fellow students, and I believe she’ll be a very compassionate doctor. I was ecstatic when I found out she was accepted into medical school,” Linder said.
Biology professor Ben Nelson also stressed Ruiz’ strong work ethic.
“Tania worked especially hard to learn the scientific vocabulary in English,” Nelson said. “Like all of our biology students who have been accepted into medical school and veterinary school over the years, she has the ability to keep her nose to the grindstone.”
Ruiz thinks that after she proved she could handle the heavy course load, she won her professors’ confidence.
“This was very motivating, and helped me a lot,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz’ experiences as a volunteer EMT in Mexico City from 2004 to 2006 sparked her interest in reconstructive surgery as a possible medical specialty.
“After a traumatic experience like a car accident, it would make a big impact on someone’s life to have reconstructive surgery,” Ruiz said. “I also like the idea of family practice because you have a lot of contact with your patients, and get to know them on a personal level.”
Ruiz said that to finance medical school, she will take out bank loans and also apply to the state’s Medical Loan for Service Program. She begins her studies at UNM in July.
“I’m so excited I can hardly wait to start medical school,” Ruiz said. “I’m making a big commitment because I’m working with people’s lives, so I have to be the best I can be.”