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Aspiring doctor dreams big, prepares for med school

Harika Echuri, '18, a chemistry major, has been dreaming of becoming a doctor since she was a young girl in India. When she was 9 years old, her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer – and was successfully treated. "I saw the work of doctors who saved the life of one of the most important people in my life," she says.

Since that time, Harika has worked diligently to achieve her dream, trusting in God along the way. Harika's family has also supported her, uprooting to the U.S. when she was 11 to provide her with a better education. Harika says her mother has been a major source of strength and inspiration.

"I think it is very important to dream big and work hard in life, so that you can achieve what you want," Harika says.

Harika's efforts began to bear fruit last fall, when she was accepted into two U.S. medical schools. She plans to attend Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.

Harika stands inside of Robinson Science Hall and smiles.

"The education I received from Whitworth prepared me to be a competitive applicant for medical schools," Harika says. "The courses I took at Whitworth were rigorous and comprehensive, which made my Medical College Admission Test preparation less tough."

Harika is grateful for many facets of her Whitworth education, including interacting with professors one-on-one and developing a broad skill set.

"Having an opportunity to develop personal relationships with my professors is the most memorable aspect of my Whitworth journey. They are willing to invest in students' lives," she says. "My pre-med advisors were also very knowledgeable and have always encouraged me since freshman year to keep pursuing my dream."

Harika thinks the liberal arts skills she honed at Whitworth will help her in her interactions with future patients.

"Whitworth offered a well-rounded education that allowed me to improve my communication, critical-thinking and interpersonal skills," she says. "For a physician, I think it is not only important to have proper scientific knowledge, but also skills that help you to interact with others and handle ethical scenarios."

Harika says her love of science is another reason she has chosen to study medicine. "Whenever I learn about the human body," she says, "I am amazed by the level of complexity that is in us."

During her time as a student, she has worked on several research projects with Whitworth science professors, and she is a teaching assistant for various science courses.

Harika also has been involved with efforts to promote diversity on campus. She worked as a cultural-diversity advocate in the residence halls for two years and was part of the International Club.

"I became more aware of the cultural differences that exist and learned how to appreciate those differences in others," Harika says. "These lessons will be especially helpful when I interact with my future patients."

Long term, Harika would like to work in a hospital or run her own clinical practice in the United States. She also desires to perform mission or volunteer work in India.

"I feel being a doctor is an opportunity to truly make a difference in people's lives," she says.