The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans provides two years of funding for outstanding graduate students who are immigrants and children of immigrants. After two years the Fellows join a lifelong community of past Fellows. We asked Oswaldo (Oz) Hasbún Avalos, a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, to look back at the first two years of the Fellowship and what they have meant to her. The Fellowships supported Oz as a medical student at Columbia University.
Oz is a native of El Salvador who immigrated to the United States in 2001. He has been committed to improving the quality of medical care for “limited English proficiency” patients since starting his undergraduate studies at Stanford University. Oz has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change by the Obama administration. In addition, he has received the Westly Prize for Young Innovators of California and has been selected as a United Health Foundation Diverse Scholar for his work on language services.
I came across an ad for the fellowship in my search of scholarships for medical school. I had already started at my program and, while I had received some internal scholarships, I still had a heavy loan burden that I was hoping could be reduced by external scholarships.
Not at all. I have been blessed with a number of scholarships to support my undergraduate and graduate studies and few sought to build a community or provide more than financial support—and even fewer still were successful in this regard. I expected the generous financial support that was advertised but was pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant community of engaged fellows, alumni, and staff—a most interesting and inspiring family and some of my best friends.
I have many! The annual conferences the first two years as a fellow are priceless in allowing each class to form lasting connections with others in their cohorts and the fellowship at large. One of my favorite memories from the conferences is making our class’ “Thank you” video to Daisy and the rest of the team—who knew a bunch of ESL immigrants could sort of rap on beat to Hamilton’s “My Shot”?
Firstly, “apply!” Reading the past fellows’ bios is intimidating and I certainly thought twice about doing it thinking I couldn’t compare. But everyone’s journey and accomplishments are unique and special in their own right. Along those lines though, my second piece of advice would be to not be afraid to show who you are and get real—that’s what makes you “you” and what will set you apart.
I took a year off from school last year to pursue and opportunity to learn the business side of healthcare with OptumCare (part of Optum, UnitedHealth Group). As such, I will be going back to my fourth year of medical school at Columbia and will embark on the journey to a residency spot in emergency medicine.