Growing up in Amherst, a town of approximately 700 residents in the Texas panhandle, Jennifer Mendoza, 22, originally wanted to study veterinary medicine. But a need for minority doctors who could connect with the Hispanic population in her area made her reevaluate her career path.
“In my community, there is a limited availability of hospitals and health clinics, and a significant portion of the community do not trust in physicians and medical practitioners." Mendoza said. “I would really like to change that mindset.”
Now a graduate of West Texas A&M with a degree in biology, she was excited about an internship at the BRAINS lab under the direction of Louise McCullough, MD, PhD, professor, chair of neurology, and co-director of the Department of Neurology with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.
“I’m learning more about the brain and human anatomy than I ever learned in college,” Mendoza said.
Everything about the BRAINS lab experience has been eye-opening for Mendoza, inspiring her to work as a research assistant this coming year while she studies for the MCAT exam and applies to medical school.
From how a stroke happens to how Alzheimer’s disease progresses, Mendoza said she is learning that gut health can play a major role in the brain, which she had never considered before. She has also learned about patient care by shadowing McCullough in her clinic.
“I love the fact that she makes each conversation so personal,” Mendoza said. “Every single patient that we saw, she made them smile.”
It’s this approach of true patient care that Mendoza hopes to bring back to her hometown.