When she was a little girl, Laura Wozniak remembers she was told by her father, a high school principal, that if she did well in academia “one day I could utilize this foundation for the betterment of others.”
It turns out Wozniak did very well in school. She graduated as valedictorian of Coronado High School in Henderson and then went on to graduate with honors from the University of Nevada, Reno, earning a bachelor’s degree in molecular microbiology and immunology and a minor in community health sciences.
Now a third year student at the UNLV School of Medicine, she’s well on her way to a career as a primary care physician, where she says she’ll treat the whole patient, serve as an active team member in the healthcare system, and be “an advocate for patients and the community…”
No doubt about it: Working for the betterment of others is what Wozniak is all about.
It didn’t take a medical degree for her to get started.
She was a volunteer and then worked in an emergency room and was a physical therapy intern as an undergraduate, encouraging patients at a most difficult time. Instead of going to Jamaica to work on a suntan during a school break, she went there to volunteer in highly underserved community centers, feeding, cleaning, bathing and spending quality time with patrons. “I was struck by how loving and positive they were despite the challenging health problems they had to endure.”
In Reno, she volunteered at a syringe exchange program for injection drug users. She assisted in running the program, educating drug users in sterile and safe habits, and also provided resources for further healthcare and support. “I think they listened more because I wasn’t passing a value judgement on them,” she says, noting that the program helped some users quit their drug habits.
Currently, she’s involved with the medical school’s student council, serving as the wellness chair. “I feel very strongly about mental health, especially the mental health of those working in the healthcare system...I strongly believe that taking care of yourself in turn helps you take care of others...It’s disheartening to see the level of physician burnout and the fact that physicians are twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population...I am grateful to work with Dr. Annie Weisman, Director of Wellness and Integrative Medicine…Under her guidance we were able to create a wellness room on campus to help encourage students to take time to relax and take a break from studying. Student government and faculty also worked together to bring a psychologist to our campus specifically for medical students.”