Q+A: Katherine Sumarriva
What does it mean to be the Doris and Fred Love scholarship recipient?
It’s huge. It means the school really believed in me and is willing to put their money and invest in me and my education because they think I will make a good doctor, and I will make a difference here at Vanderbilt, so I really want to make them proud. It’s also good because it means Vanderbilt cares about diversity. Being a woman, especially a Hispanic woman, it would have never happened 50 to 60 years ago, so I think that is really huge, too.
Your parents moved to Tennessee from Peru. How has that impacted your life?
I think when I grew up that is when I realized all of the sacrifices that they made coming here. I mean, they left their family, they left all their friends, they left all their things. They came with just two suitcases, and two little kids. And it was all for us, their kids, so that we could have better opportunities, and a better life than they had in Peru. Once I realized that, that became a huge motivation for everything I did in my life, just to make them proud, and to make all their sacrifices worth it.
You have two older siblings, both of whom are doctors; did they inspire you to go to medical school?
I think it introduced me to the idea of medicine as a profession, but honestly, I wanted to be a teacher. What really made me want to become a doctor was interning and working with patients, and seeing what being a doctor is really all about, and seeing how they can change patients’ lives.
Is there one area of the medical field you’d like to improve?
I would definitely want to help immigrant populations in the U.S. Here in Nashville we don’t have a huge bilingual or Hispanic doctor population, so inevitably there is a huge cultural gap, and it affects their care; it affects the physician/patient relationship. A lot of times it affects the trust between the two, from both sides. I think I would try to make other medical students and physicians-in-training try to understand the cultural nuances that you need to know in caring for Hispanic patients, especially undocumented ones.
When you are not studying, what do you like to do?
My favorite experience outside of the classroom so far has definitely been Cadaver Ball. It was so great to see everyone dressed up and to watch all the hilarious videos put together by the different classes. I also performed a Salsa routine with VMS Dance for the show, which was so much fun.