“I was born prematurely at the University of Utah Hospital. My parents would tell me stories about how the doctors had to save my life. Growing up and carrying that really inspired me to be a doctor.
I’ve always wanted to go to the U because that’s where I was born and ever since I was young, my dad would make such a big deal about the Utes. When I got accepted and I had the opportunity to get the For Utah scholarship, it honestly changed my life.
My parents are immigrants, so I would have had to go into a lot of student debt to get my undergraduate degree and struggle with keeping multiple jobs and helping my family as well. So getting the opportunity to have this scholarship really changed my life. It also gave me the chance my first year at the U to be on the University of Utah spirit team. I had the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl and go to the games and really get that college life I always imagined. I feel like that wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship.
Growing up, I lived with my grandma for a long time and one day she bought this pop-out coloring book and it was about the human body. I remember looking at this and being really fascinated by this. My grandma was the one who taught me how to draw. We would go over the anatomy book together and we would draw. For me, it was really eye-opening. It was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing! I want to learn more about this.’ That’s when it really clicked for me.
That passion and that love for science came back when I was in seventh grade and I had the opportunity to take Introduction to Biology. My biology teacher that year when I was in middle school was really impactful for me.
I chose biology as my major because I’ve always loved biology and I feel this connection with it. The same with anatomy. I want to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. I’ve always been obsessed with the heart. As I was getting older and taking more advanced classes, my sophomore or junior year of high school I took a certified nurse assistant course and I really fell in love with that. But then I got into a really competitive medical assisting course my senior year of high school and that’s where they taught me how to do EKGs and draw blood and give shots and all of that. When I had the chance to work at a clinic alongside doctors, I worked alongside someone who specialized in the heart. That’s something I’ve always been really fascinated with. Working alongside him made me realize that it could potentially be a path that I would want to take.
Over the summer, I got an internship through the PathMakers Scholars and I am currently doing cancer research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I also had the opportunity to write a book with M.D.-Ph.D. students. In that book, I wrote about how growing up doing art and connecting that with medicine and the human body was impactful for me. For me, medicine is art.”
—Jessica Venegas, For Utah Scholarship recipient