Chelsea Peterson

Chelsea PetersonName: Chelsea Peterson
Hometown: Littleton, Colorado
Year in Medical School: Class of 2021
Undergraduate School: Baylor University

Meet Chelsea Peterson, a second-year medical student from Littleton, Colorado. Peterson attended Baylor University and has an interest in researching public health and how it is used to reduce health disparities. Peterson recently was elected to serve as president of the Student Government Association.

Do you serve on any student interest groups/organizations/activities? If so, which one(s)?
Yes, I have been involved in the Student Government Association since my first year and am currently the student body president. I also co-founded the Public Health Interest Group and was the former treasurer for the Women’s Health Interest Group.

What inspired you to become a doctor? When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
I’ve always found medicine fascinating, but was really able to put a reason behind my passion after visiting an obstetric fistula hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when I was 13 years old. The women at this hospital had not had access to medical assistance during their pregnancy or delivery, and complications left them injured in such a way that they could not live a normal life, and were often ostracized from their communities. The physicians at this hospital had dedicated their lives to taking these women in and surgically repairing their bodies so they could re-enter their communities and live a normal life again. Medicine gave these people a second chance and it was at that point that I realized I, too, wanted to use medicine to give people a chance at life.

Why did you choose UTRGV School of Medicine?
When I was applying to medical schools across the country, I quickly realized they all seemed pretty similar, but UTRGV was one that stuck out to me because of its unique mission and location. Even the application was geared toward its mission and I felt it was truly looking for students with a desire to serve others. The school has a strong emphasis on cultural competency, collaboration and community involvement, and these values closely align with mine and how I want to practice medicine.

What specialties of medicine interest you the most? Why?
I’m currently interested in obstetrics and gynecology. I’m drawn to the specialty, as it is an incredibly broad field, and is a specialty that would allow me to have a long-term relationship with patients but also work in a surgical setting. I’m also hoping to be involved in global health, so I’m interested in specialties with a broad focus, such as OB/GYN or, possibly, primary care.

What areas of research interest you the most? Why?
I’m especially interested in public health research and using it to help reduce disparities in medicine. I recently did a research project on the effects of a nutritional rehabilitation center on the development of children with malnutrition in Lima, Peru. I hope to use research like this to improve health and healthcare distribution in populations with limited access to care.

How has the UTRGV School of Medicine fostered your interests in pursuing a career in medicine?
One way, in particular, the school has fostered my interest in medicine is through its emphasis on service and giving back to the community. The physicians at UTRGV School of Medicine have shown me what it truly means to treat patients holistically and advocate for their health and this inspires me every day. Despite the pressures and demands of the healthcare system, the physicians here place their patients first and are instilling in me values I will carry with me forever.

Tell me about the summer or your first or second year of medical school. Did you engage in any interesting research?
Between the summer of my first and second year I went to Lima, Peru, through UTMBs global health program. I worked with a pediatric infectious disease specialist and was able to participate in clinical, evaluation, educational and research-related experiences, as well as practice my Spanish! I was able to co-create a public health research project to study malnutrition and enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with people around the world on a similar project.

What is one interesting fact others might not know about you that you are willing to share?
In my former life, before medical school, I volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and had the chance to advocate in court for children in the foster care system.