Teen Face: Budding doctor inherited value of work, education

  • Valerie Chavez, 17, is a senior at Casa Grande High School. Photo taken at the school on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Growing up in a large family, Valerie Chavez saw her parents work hard and value education.

She's relying on those examples in her own life as she plans for college, possibly moving out of state and the independence of young adulthood.

The Petaluma youth will be the first person in her immediate family to attend college, and she plans on ultimately becoming an emergency room doctor.

The 17-year-old Casa Grande High School student is a straight-A student and is awaiting word back from the 18 universities she applied to.

"That dedication and determination is something you get from growing up in a Latino culture," she said. "The family is patriarchal. My dad fosters the ability to argue a point, the ability to win an argument. That gave me the ability to fight for what I want."

Chavez's mother is a medical assistant at the Petaluma Health Center, which in part sparked her interest in medicine.

"She has a deep admiration for the doctors and their work, and I also gained that respect," she said.

Last summer, Chavez took a junior college class in health careers.

"I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but wasn't sure of a specialty. I heard the head ER doctor from Kaiser speak and I knew I wanted to do that. I like how they are able to help people immediately."

She also said she has a "sense of adventure" that an ER doc may experience: "I'm a really up-and-go person."

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