Medical student Krystha Cantu received a $100,000, full-ride scholarship to attend the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.Krystha Cantu grew up in McAllen, Texas, a city in the Rio Grande Valley that is as southerly as South Texas gets. When Krystha, who attended Rice University as an undergraduate, applied for medical schools, she had no idea she’d be offered a full-ride, $100,000 scholarship to attend Texas A&M’s medical school in Bryan-College Station.

The Tijerina Scholarship was established through the generous support of the Tijerina family, who wished to create new opportunities for exceptional future doctors from the Rio Grande Valley. “Krystha Cantu exemplifies dedication, discipline, and a passion for public service,” said Boris A. Hidalgo, a representative of the foundation. “We are proud to support her in her educational journey.”

We sat down with Krystha to learn more about her and check in with her midway through her first year of medical school.

TAMHSC-COM: Are there any doctors in your family? Are there others who inspired you and helped set you on this path?

Krystha Cantu: There are no doctors in my family. My father is an attorney, so I was always exposed to the legal profession. However, I was fortunate enough to have parents that always supported my curiosity and passion for the natural sciences. I realized early on that medicine was the right career choice for me as someone who hoped to couple science with lifelong humanitarian service. Once I started my undergraduate career, I met several physicians, such as Dr. Steven Lin of MD Anderson, who helped solidify my interests in medicine by giving me exposure to basic science research. I also met several physicians in the valley, such as Dr. Luis Rios, a plastic surgeon, and Dr. Jaime Garza, an OB GYN, who gave me opportunities to learn from their respective crafts through shadowing. These were just a few of the truly outstanding physicians I had the opportunity to work with.

TAMHSC-COM: The Tijerina scholarship is obviously an astonishing opportunity. What has that opportunity meant for you personally in pursuing your educational goals?

Cantu: The Tijerina scholarship truly changed my life. It granted me with the opportunity to pursue my passion and lifelong dream without being hindered by further debt. I was truly humbled to have been selected as the recipient. For me it meant that the scholarship committee had also placed an emotional and spiritual investment in my efforts to excel in medicine. I take this scholarship as an emblem of their support and trust in me as an aspiring physician, and I use that as fuel every day in my studies and personal betterment. I also hope to be a mouthpiece for other aspiring Latin physicians who may feel discouraged by the level of debt that follows a medical education. I want to say that there are always opportunities to follow your professional goals if you work hard enough and remain strong in your faith.

TAMHSC-COM: How has your experience at our medical school been so far? How would you describe going to Texas A&M’s medical school to outsiders?

Cantu: I am honored to be a thread in this fabric of aspiring physicians. Texas A&M’s medical students are truly outstanding individuals with so many talents and past experiences. It has been wonderful to learn with them. The professors are spectacular; the teaching style in the medical school has only reinforced my career choice. They really care about every student and go out of their way to make sure the material is appropriately taught with clinical translations. It has been a challenging experience, but it has been met with familial support from peers and professors. I have sincerely enjoyed my time here as a first-year medical student.

TAMHSC-COM: What are your thoughts about practice specialties? Do you have firm plans, or a few specialties you’re considering, or are you taking a wait-and-see approach?

Cantu: I have always been interested in Emergency Medicine because I worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for two years and truly enjoyed the experience. I have also thought about surgical medicine, since I have always had a proclivity for detail and fine motor skills through my earlier career producing artwork. Beyond that, I am not quite sure. At this point I am leaning more towards surgical medicine because I so enjoyed dissections in gross anatomy. The cadaver lab really crystallized my interest in the finesse of surgery and substantiated my respect for the human body. After each dissection, I felt my whole being contract with humility. The human body is such an elegant machine, and I would be honored to spend my professional career working so closely to it while relieving patients of their ailments.

— Jeremiah McNichols

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