Fall 2013
Student Spotlight

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

two medical students in clinical exam room

Sawaya, left, and Choudhury were drawn to the School of Medicine by the small class size and the quality of its professors. Photo by Edgar Antonio Nunez.

University of Nevada School of Medicine students and friends Jennifer Sawaya and Zareen Choudhury both graduated from The Meadows private high school in Las Vegas, went out-of-state for their undergraduate degrees and returned to Nevada for medical school.

What brought the two Nevada natives back? Their love for Nevada, family and the fact that the School of Medicine is a smaller school where they knew they would get the personal attention to help them fulfill their dreams of becoming top notch physicians.

Following her high school graduation, Sawaya, 27, went to Northwestern University in Chicago where she graduated in 2008 with a bachelor of arts degree in biological sciences with a concentration in physiology and minor in psychology.

"I chose to go to Northwestern because their programs were exceptional and gave me the opportunity to do research. While there, I knew I wanted to be a doctor and two summers later, while in medical school here, I was invited to go back to Northwestern to do research in dermatology," she explained.

Following Sawaya's graduation from Northwestern, she worked in Washington, D.C. for a year as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. During that time, she applied to medical schools, hoping she would get into the School of Medicine, and her wish came true.

"I was so excited when I got the news. I couldn't believe I was going home where I could be with family again. I liked the fact that the school here is smaller and our professors turned out to be totally dedicated to teaching. They spend a lot of time with us and they care."

"I'm especially grateful as the school has provided me with the opportunity to serve as the chief financial officer and board member for the Student Outreach Clinic. I've also been active in several dermatology research projects and continue to work in publications in order to achieve my goal of becoming a pediatric dermatologist."

Fellow classmate Zareen Choudhury, 26, also chose to leave Nevada for her undergraduate work at the University of California, Irvine where she graduated in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in public health science.

"I chose that major because I had a dream of becoming a doctor. I was known at Irvine for being very active in academic and campus activities. I liked it in California, but when it came time to apply to medical schools, Nevada was at the top of the list. I wanted to come home to be with my family and friends."

"I love Nevada, and the medical school offers a lot of opportunities in regard to anatomy and pathology because we get critical experience early on. At bigger schools, that doesn't happen. For most of them, you don't even get to see a patient for the first couple of years, but we do here."

While working on her medical degree, she has been a volunteer for the Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada, been on medical mission work to Nicaragua and has worked as a medic for Nevada's annual Burning Man event. Choudhury plans to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology in Las Vegas, because it's home.