CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Cobarrubias children are living their mother’s unfulfilled dream.
Amelia Cobarrubias longed to become a medical practitioner. But the tiny Mexican village where she grew up offered scant opportunities for girls. So she carried her dream to Oregon where her husband Florencio found work in the orchards of Hood River. More than a decade later, widowed and juggling three low-wage jobs to raise her eight children alone, she still nurtured her childhood wish to bring health care and healing to those in need.
But the dream was no longer for herself. Almost like a genetic gift, Amelia had passed it along to her offspring, math and science whizzes all.
Today, four of them - Genobeva, Florencio Jr., Elizabeth and Kristina - are enrolled in pre-health programs at Oregon State University.
Majoring in microbiology and German, Genobeva (Genny) plans to become a pediatrician. Kristina is in pre-dentistry, thinking about a children’s practice. Florencio is in pre-pharmacy, hoping to own his own pharmaceuticals business someday. And Elizabeth, with a major in biochemistry/biophysics, wants to be a surgeon, probably a cardiologist.
“At least one-quarter of the students in the College of Science are preparing for health professions,” said Chere Pereira, who guides OSU’s pre-medical and pre-dental students from orientation through professional-school application.
Medical schools admitting OSU grads include such leading institutions as Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, Mayo, Washington University, UCLA, and Dartmouth, as well as the most popular, Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Besides pre-med, pre-pharmacy and pre-dentistry, OSU’s Pre-Health Occupations program also offers pre-nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, physical therapy, physician assistant, podiatry, veterinary medicine and clinical lab science.
“OSU’s pre-health programs are well-respected throughout the country,” said Pereira. “Our students are not only well-trained, they tend to be resourceful and grounded in the real world.”
With so many underserved ethnic communities across the nation, cultural competence is a big plus for prospective medical students, Pereira said. So in partnership with OHSU, OSU supports greater diversity in health professions through special programs.
And, through IE3 Global Internships, undergrads can get international experience working side-by-side with doctors in Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador, India and South Africa.
For the bilingual and trilingual Cobarrubias siblings (in high school, Genny and Elizabeth studied in Germany and Italy, respectively), cultural competence is a given, as well as their interest in science.
“In elementary school, I loved the sciences and always excelled,” said Genny, who wants to blend her interests in research and medicine to specialize in childhood illnesses. “Whenever the teacher told us to write a story, I would do a research report, usually on rare or endangered animals.”
Elizabeth’s fascination with medicine began when she was a patient at Shriners Children’s Hospital in Portland. Lying on the operating table, the 13-year-old asked to remain awake as long as possible before her hip surgery. “The heart monitor, the IVs, all the medical equipment sparked my interest,” she said.
Add to that their single-minded focus on achieving their goals, and it appears their mother’s lifelong dream will finally be realized - in quadruplicate.