Meet the 2023 Scholars

Get to know the hopes, dreams, and talents of this year's winners.

Monica M.

Undergraduate Recipient

"Write a letter to your younger self during a key moment in your life addressing one or more of the following: words of encouragement, lessons you have learned and/or challenges you have overcome."

The morning of August 18th, 2020 was the beginning of an exceptionally turbulent year of my life. What started as a seemingly harmless, faint cough ultimately gained enough traction to change my life. From that point on, my symptoms only changed, never improved. I was referred to four different specialists who each did their best to address my symptoms, but there was a broader explanation yet to be discovered. Numerous blood tests, CT scans, ultrasounds, endoscopies, and medications were prescribed through trial and error, but they provided no answers or relief. Six months later, my symptoms drastically worsened as I felt a sharp pain in my side; the CT showed a mass in the right lower lobe of my lung. At this time, I felt so sick that a short walk, a shower, or even reading caused intense vertigo, as though my eyes were spinning in opposite directions. The pain in my chest was so unbearable that lying down was just as painful as standing. In these months, I lost 25 pounds and felt profoundly weak. At this point, I started to lose hope that a diagnosis would be found. No doctor I received care from could provide an explanation to my situation. Finally, during the last week of May, I visited a pulmonologist who ultimately diagnosed my constellation of symptoms as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. I had never heard of this before, but he explained the disease in detail, and all the pieces began to fit together. That day, I felt an immeasurable sense of relief to finally receive some clarity on the illness that had been consuming my life. After battling my own set of challenges, my choice to pursue a career in medicine was not just about a love for science or helping people in need; it has become a way to instill hope in people who are so desperately seeking answers. I know exactly how it feels to remember a life before any limitations and have such a strong desire to get that back. I also understand how hard it can be to be so unfamiliar with what is going on inside of your body but being unable to find those answers by yourself. Although loved ones can sympathize with how you are feeling, it seems like no one truly understands the pain you are going through. Despite the past year being one of the hardest of my life thus far, I have gained so much perspective as a patient on how a physician's knowledge and empathy can make a world of difference for the next chapter of a patient's life. I strive to be that source of empathy, clarity, and courage that patients seek in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives.

Monica M.'s Artwork

Monica M.'s Achievements

  • Summa Cum Laude Graduate & Dean's List Recipient (Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2022)
  • Wishmakers at UT Dallas, President, 2021-22
  • Freshman Mentor, 2020-22
  • Introduction to Modern Biology II, Teaching Assistant, 2021-22
  • Social Cognition and Interaction in Autism Lab, Research Assistant, 2020-22
  • UT Southwestern Osborne Lab, Research Assistant, 2022-Present
  • Primary Care Clinic of North Texas, Volunteer, 2021-22
  • Three Oaks Hospice, Volunteer, 2022
  • Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Lemon Club at UT Dallas, President, 2021-22
  • Communications Lab at UT Dallas, Employed as a Peer Leader, 2020-22