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Mapping the brain with OHSU researchers

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In a lab at OHSU, Valeria Vazquez-Trejo works with world-class researchers using advanced imaging to map brain networks and better understand disorders such as autism and ADHD.

And she’s only a junior at Portland State.

The internship has given her an early, first-hand look at medical research and shaped her career plans. An Honors biology major, Valeria wants to become a doctor serving low-income, Latino and underrepresented communities like the one she grew up in — and now she’s considering adding research to the mix.

“As an undergraduate, you have all these hopes and dreams, but you don’t know how it’s going to look in the end,” she says. “I think working in a lab is really helpful to see what you like and what you don’t like, to see if that’s really what you want to pursue.”

Her parents immigrated to Oregon from Mexico before she was born. She spoke Spanish at home and didn’t learn English until kindergarten.

Even as a young child, she knew she wanted to help other people. When a relative was sick in the hospital, she saw all the support her family received from doctors and staff, and she wanted to give back in some way. During a health occupations class in high school, she realized she could turn that desire into a medical career.

Valeria graduated from Silverton High School in 2015 and became one of the first in her family to go to college with support from scholarships and grants.

At PSU, she joined BUILD EXITO, an undergraduate research training program that helped her find the OHSU lab internship. The program also provides a work stipend and mentors to guide her on her path. 

She’s still deciding what kind of medicine to practice – she’s leaning toward pediatrics to give children an early start on good health. But she knows she wants to use her Spanish skills and research experience to help her patients.

 

“That’s something I’ve always really valued – giving back.”

 

At Portland State University, we believe knowledge works best when it serves the community.

 

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