MC student leader seeks to eliminate healthcare barriers

MC student leader seeks to eliminate healthcare barriersJanuary 10, 2023

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Maria Gonzalez

Maria Gonzalez admits that she wasn’t the best student in high school, and it wasn’t until her senior year in high school that she discovered a purpose to her life.  Now, she has a 3.93 cumulative GPA, will graduate from Midland College (MC) in May with an associate degree and has set her sights on becoming a physician, hoping to eventually establish a practice in West Texas.

“I’ll transfer to Texas Tech University in the fall.”  Gonzalez explained.  “My goal is to then attend medical school and become a physician.  Right now, I’m thinking that I will stay in the West Texas area and serve those in the Hispanic community.  I understand and want to overcome the barriers of language and culture that exist between physicians and Hispanic patients.”

When she was 5, Gonzalez and her parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia and established residency in Las Vegas, NV where her father worked in the construction business.  In 2012, when Maria was 9, the family moved to Midland, and Maria attended schools at Midland ISD and graduated from Midland High School in 2021.  

“During my senior year in high school, I took Certified Nurse Aide and Phlebotomy courses at the Midland College Advanced Technology Center through the MC/MISD College & Careers Academy,” Gonzalez said.  “That’s when I found out that I really enjoyed healthcare.  However, I’ve noticed how many people in the Hispanic community are hesitant to seek healthcare and when they do, there is often miscommunication.  I truly believe that I can help alleviate these problems, and the best way I can do that is through becoming a physician.”

Gonzalez is no stranger to hard work.  She started working at the age of 15 at Opal’s Table and continued to work approximately 25 hours per week throughout high school.  At the age of 16, she had earned enough money to purchase a car.  This semester she is working part-time as a Midland College science tutor, and she volunteers at Centers for Children and Families at least once a month monitoring visits between noncustodial parents and their children.

In addition to being an Honors student at Midland College, Gonzalez is also vice president of Service with the MC Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honors Society.  She takes this responsibility very seriously.  

During the fall 2022 semester, Gonzalez organized a campus-wide project to provide items for clients of the Crisis Center of West Texas.  After discussing with fellow PTK members and looking at the dismal numbers concerning domestic violence in the area, she led the chapter in collecting personal care items from the campus community. The project began on October 26 when PTK members solicited assistance from Midland College employees and students.

“When we asked our fellow students and Midland College employees for donations, the response was overwhelming,” Gonzalez said.  “Individuals—both students and employees—contributed.  A dual credit English class taught by Felicia Stovall joined us by making this their class project, and the Student Nurses Association contributed with many items, as well.   In addition to over 30 bags of items, we also donated $767 for the Crisis Center clients.”

Gonzalez then worked with Lorie Dunnam, the executive director of the center, to schedule a time to deliver all of the items. 

Gonzalez stated that during PTK’s research, members discovered that the Crisis Center of West Texas currently houses approximately 50 adults and children who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.  They also maintain a 24-hour hotline, free counseling, case management and legal advocacy.

“In 2021, there were 204 Texans killed by their intimate partners and 5 of those were in the Permian Basin,” Gonzalez explained.  “People our age (14-25) are at the highest risk for interpersonal violence.”

At the same time that Gonzalez was leading the drive for the Crisis Center, she also organized a Thanksgiving meal for a fellow MC student who is a disabled military veteran with three children.  She developed the list of items needed for a complete Thanksgiving meal and made the “pitch” to PTK members.  She then led the efforts to provide not only the meal, but also toys for the children.  

This spring, Gonzalez plans to organize PTK members to educate local junior high students about going to college and researching scholarships and other sources of tuition assistance.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed being a member of PTK,” Gonzalez said.  “I had no previous leadership experience, but through PTK, I feel that I have gained invaluable leadership abilities.  It’s also given me a sense of ‘community’ and taught me about valuing others’ opinions and how to work with people at various stages of life.  The members are different ages and ethnicities, but we all come together to work toward a common goal of service.”

“I admire Maria’s enthusiasm and ability to take initiative and lead with a sense of purpose,” Dr. Terry Gilmour, MC Government professor and Honors program director, said.  “She is articulate, poised and caring.  It is a privilege to know this young woman.”

Gonzalez is also a member of the MC Chemistry Club and is conducting research with MC Chemistry Professor Dr. Pat Kesavan to synthesize silver nanoparticles for the possibility of delivering chemotherapy directly into tumor sites.  Gonzalez will give a presentation on this project at a conference in the spring.  In addition, she is researching the 1918 Porvenir massacre in Presidio County, TX and will present her findings at the West Texas Symposium of History on March 25.  

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