it’s not an undergraduate major often associated with someone in medical school.
But Lauren Hollifield, now in the inaugural class of the UNLV School of Medicine, chose to major in the Romance language at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles because she knew that whatever profession she entered, knowing the language would be helpful.
“I didn’t know what field I would go into but I did know that the population was changing quickly and Spanish would likely be a language for many of the people I would be serving,” she said.
A graduate of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Hollifield, 25, said the fact that she went to both a high school and university run by Jesuits —
an order of Catholic priests known around the world as social justice advocates —
reinforced her deep felt need to “find a way to help those who don’t have as much as you do... I want to help the underserved.”.
At first blush, it would seem that her decision to help the underserved through medicine was preordained. After all, her father, Dr. Rodney Hollifield, is a Las Vegas ophthalmologist and her mother, Charlene Day, who holds a Ph.D. in public health, is the founder of Education for Quality Living, a Southern Nevada consulting firm dedicated to health promotion and disease prevention.
But Hollifield said it wasn’t until she did volunteer work in Nicaragua in the summers during college —
she got trained as an emergency medical technician to help the Spanish-speaking populace —
that she decided the practice of medicine would be the best way for her to help the underserved.
Though she minored in biochemistry as an undergraduate, she realized she needed more background in the sciences and enrolled in a two year Master of Science in Medical Science program at Drexel University in Philadelphia that focused on biochemistry and pharmacology.
“I was prepared for medical school by my masters,” she said. “It’s very doable for me now. It’s still very challenging but it would have been much more difficult without a solid foundation in science.”
She isn’t sure what area of medicine will be her speciality. “I love the idea of merging prevention, the area of concentration of my mother, with intervention, which, of course, my father does.”
When she’s not in class, she devotes much of her time to study. “But I still have to have eight hours of sleep a night. Some of my peers get by on four hours but I can’t.”
Hollifield, a former varsity lacrosse player in high school and college, still makes time for physical fitness. “I run three miles about three times a week and it makes me feel better.”
She also volunteers with her mother’s consulting firm, going to African-American churches to teach healthy eating habits that can cut down on the incidence of hypertension in the black community.
“I’m proud and honored to be in the first class of medical students at UNLV,” said Hollifield, who was accepted at five medical schools. “I want to be part of the change in Nevada, changing the fact that we don’t have enough physicians. We are going to have more access for all people... I want to give back to my community, to help the underserved in Las Vegas, the place I call home. ””