Determined to be a doctor

Michelle holding an MCAT prep book, as she is outside on a sunny day on the WSU campus.

In the first grade, the emergency visits didn’t rattle Michelle Razo.

With both her parents struggling with health complications and having no health insurance or primary physician, the hospital just seemed commonplace.

“It’s interesting because I thought it was normal for everyone to just always be in that setting,” Razo said. 

Weeks from graduating with a genetics and cell biology degree from Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Razo hasn’t forgotten about those hospital visits. It’s what fueled her dream to be a doctor, and it’s why she is so determined to attend medical school.

“I feel like going into the medical field was from just being around it a lot and that’s also why I want to practice medicine in rural communities,” Razo said. “What I found through my personal experiences is sometimes lower economic families, especially in rural areas, don’t really get the necessary treatment. So, I want to go into those types of communities, like the one I grew up in, and provide health care where it is needed.”

Razo, a Grandview, Washington, native, considered herself low-income growing up, but based on the various elements that determine federal student aid, she was still responsible for much of her college tuition. She said she wouldn’t be able to afford college without her sister, the scholarships she was fortunate to receive, and working student jobs from University Recreation to Dining Services and others in between.

“I just remember getting up at 5 in the morning to go to work from 6 to 11 and rushing back to my dorm and climbing back up this ginormous hill to my classes,” Razo said. “It was difficult, but my family was always behind me.”

Razo, a first-generation college student, said she is especially thankful for the scholarships she received, many of which were awarded through WSU, including the University Achievement Award, the Giustino Family Endowed Scholarship and BECU’s Invest in Success program, which provides $4 for every $1 participating students save toward their education at WSU.

Razo said WSU’s Multicultural Opportunity Scholarship and School of Molecular Biosciences Scholarship were especially helpful in shaping who she is today. The scholarships were the reason she was able to attend WSU’s Research Immersion in Nairobi, Kenya, program, which she described as a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The program, now in its second year, is meant to enhance students’ technical expertise while supporting ongoing studies by WSU’s Global Health Kenya program, a major research arm of WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

In addition to working with WSU researchers, Razo was also granted the opportunity to work inside a Centers for Disease Control laboratory conducting diagnostic testing and monitoring for potential health threats. 

“It was like a discovery of myself again,” Razo said. “You’re put in a situation where you don’t know anyone, you don’t know anything, and in this moment, you get to learn all these things and meet all these people and what they stand for. I just felt like if I can do this, I can do so many other things.”

Included on the list is starting her own nonprofit based in Washington state specifically designed to provide care in low-income communities.

“I feel like that’s what my parents needed, and that wasn’t something available to them,” Razo said. “So that’s kind of my ultimate dream.”