My roots begin in Inoa, a town
located in San Jose de las
Matas, Dominican Republic.
Though a small percentage of my life was
spent there, it was in this very place where a naïve,
optimistic, and younger version of myself once said,
“I want to be a doctor when I grow up.” At the time
the idea may have seemed far-fetched, possibly too
ambitious, but definitely not impossible, especially
not to my parents.
My parents, Jose and Paula, never took
education lightly. Growing up, my mother would
hover over my shoulder as I completed my
homework, threatening to erase all my work if my
handwriting did not meet her expectations. She was
strict, and at the time I may have hated it, but she is
entirely responsible for my work ethic today.
At a very young age she taught me about hard
work and when we moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2002,
she defined the meaning of support as we
struggled to complete my homework assignments,
despite the language barrier, together. All through
elementary school and into college I have had
teachers, friends and mentors who have pushed me
to become the most authentic version of myself.
Today, I am third-year Biochemistry major at
Smith College, where I work to accomplish my
childhood dream of becoming a physician. I decided
to attend Smith College because I realized that I
thrive most in small and supportive communities.
Smith College, despite meeting this criteria and
providing me with an exceptional education, is
predominantly white. Coming from a majority Black
and Latino community, this was a huge shift for me.
In fact, I suffered from imposter syndrome my first
year because I felt like I could not keep up with my
peers. I was afraid to ask questions and questioned
my intelligence, especially in my science classes.
Additionally, I was one of few, sometimes the only
woman of color in the room, which created a bigger
distance between my classmates and myself.
Now, I realize how important my presence is at
a place like Smith College. I know I simultaneously
represent the young women of Inoa and Brooklyn,
and my immigrant parent’s hard work and
sacrifices. My personal battles have further
emphasized the importance of community, pushing
Emely and her family at her high school graduation. Jose, father (left), Ivan, brother
(center), Paula, mother (right). All City Leadership Secondary School, Brooklyn, NY.
Emely receives her poster award at the IBB Poster Symposium for her 10-week research
project titled, Developing Low-Cost Training Materials for High-Resolution
Microendoscopy (HRME) Cervical Imaging in Underserved Areas of Brazil, through the
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Opportunities Research Program
(EXROP). Rice University, Houston, TX. August 2018.
me to build relationships with my professors and to
rely on my peers and family during difficult times.
This positive outlook has enhanced my academic
experience, and as an aspiring physician-scientist, it
has given me the self-assurance to enter into the
research and medical world - places where I am
most certainly the minority - with confidence.
Therefore, whether I am engineering proteins
for applications in cancer drug delivery in a
140,000-square-foot science and engineering
building in Massachusetts or developing low-cost
training tools to better diagnose and treat cervical
cancer in rural Brazil at Rice University, I remember
to remind myself that by being different-especially in
these spaces-simply means that I am being the
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Being the Difference
By Emely Tejada Jaquez
44 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle Vol. 25, No. 1, 2019