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    Tuesday, November 20, 2018-7:34:20P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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NMI medical student awarded national scholarship

MATTHEW Lopez, a Marianas High School alumnus and Gates Millennium scholar who recently  graduated summa cum laude from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, has been awarded a scholarship that will pay for his four years in medical school.

Matthew Martin Lopez at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Contributed photo

He said he is eager to serve the people of Saipan. “Serving the island through medicine has always been my dream,” he added.

In August, he started attending medical school and was assigned to one of the local hospitals in Loma Linda, California.

Lopez said he plans to return to Saipan after completing his residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics which will take four years to complete.

Overall, he said it will take eight years to complete his medical training before he can practice independently.

Prior to his acceptance to medical school, Lopez said he was worried about how he could finance his education which would cost about $75,000 a year.

Obtaining a $300,000 student loan, he said, “was scary for me, especially since I want to provide healthcare to underserved areas like the CNMI — I did not know how I could pay back that amount.”

 During his undergraduate study, he received the Gates Millennium Scholarship which paid for all of his educational and living expenses, but not for medical school.

Lopez said his mother Lovely encouraged him to avail himself of the National Health Service Corps scholarship program which pays for  four years in medical school in exchange for four years of service in an underserved location.

The NHSC was founded by the U.S government due to a shortage of primary care physicians.

“I was hesitant to apply for the scholarship at first because it was competitive and had very strict criteria,” he said.

In 2017 about 5,000 medical students, dentists, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners applied, but only 130 were awarded scholarships.

“I really did not think I had a chance,” Lopez said. A consistent top student in elementary and high schools on Saipan, he said he applied anyway.

He submitted three essays on how he could contribute to the mission of the National Health Service Corps in providing care to underserved communities. He mentioned his experience and activities which he believes have prepared him to work with underserved population. He emphasized his commitment to pursue a career in primary healthcare.

“It was tough because the application period opened two and half weeks before my college graduation. I submitted my application the day it was due,” Lopez said, adding that waiting for the result was the most difficult part.

In mid-August, he was informed by the NHSC that he was one of the finalists. “A month later, I was notified that I had been accepted. It is such a relief to know that I will be graduating from medical school debt-free. This will enable me to focus on providing healthcare to underserved areas like Saipan without stressing about my finances,” Lopez said.

 “Saipan is my home, and I will make it my life’s mission to provide the local community with the highest quality of healthcare available.”

His advice to other CNMI students: “Always seek opportunities. There are always ways for you to pursue your dreams and aspirations.”

His mother, Lovely, said her son “made the whole family very proud — his will to pursue excellence, his commitment, discipline, hard work, and his faith in God have brought him far. It’s my prayer that he may continue to grow, use the gifts and talents God has given him for the betterment of others.”