Scholar Highlight: Gabriela Pinzon-Betancourt (Class of 2026)

Gabriela Pinzon Betancourt
Gabriela Pinzon-Betancourt

“I grew up in San Luis Obispo, California. I was fortunate to be at home during my undergraduate education and attended Cuesta College before transferring to Cal Poly, where I graduated with a BS in biochemistry and a minor in Spanish. I am a child of Mexican immigrants who instilled pillars of grit, perseverance and empathy in me.

The experience of growing up in a wealthy town where not many people looked like me or my family largely shaped who I am. I consistently strived to do well and always made the most of opportunities presented to me, in spite of adversities along the way.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to serving and advocating for others. I have always been a curious person, which also helped me hone in on a career. I was drawn to medicine because it provides lifelong learning opportunities and would empower me to advocate for my future patients.

The impact the scholarship has had on me and my family is immense. My father passed away earlier this year and he and my mother would help me with my car payments and other living expenses. My mother recently learned she has breast cancer and so she will be unable to support me financially as she has stopped working. These life events have made this scholarship even more essential.

All that said, naturally, I was thrilled when I learned I would receive the USC Associates scholarship! I will be fully self-reliant in paying for my education, which remains intimidating. Having fewer financial worries, however, will help me devote more energy to excelling in school. I want to be able to devote as much time and mental space to learning and working towards being a physician. It means a lot to have your support as I work toward these goals, and it makes me feel validated knowing that my traits and skills are recognized by the Keck School of Medicine’s community of supporters.

I chose the Keck School of Medicine because I love the welcoming environment that it offers along with its rigorous medical training. The school made me feel confident that I would be supported as a first-generation, underrepresented female in medicine. I also became enamored with the patient population Keck serves. Being Mexican, I know I want to give back to my community when I become a physician. Being able to help my community from the get-go as a medical student in the heart of such a diverse area of the country was extremely enticing.

Right now, I find that I like many specialties for different reasons, so I can’t say yet which specialty I hope to pursue. However, I do know I want to work with patients who have been underserved in this country, specifically those in the Latino community at large. I want to work to make the medical field a more equitable space for those of my background by providing the highest medical care through my training at Keck. Growing up, I saw how my parents would hesitate to go to the doctor; often they would feel misunderstood or dismissed. I want to deliver the opposite impression to my future patients. I hope to achieve a chain reaction—that by helping my community and giving people positive healthcare experiences, I can both comfort my patients and inspire the next generation of physicians.”

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