As a fourth-year emergency medicine/pediatrics resident at University of Maryland Medical Center, Carmen Avendaño, MD SGU ’14, is just where she wants to be. And considering her family’s roots in medicine, perhaps it’s where she was destined to be as well.
Dr. Avendaño hails from a family of “many doctors and engineers”—her great-grandfather, grandfather, father, two uncles, and cousin were all physicians. Now a doctor herself, she is thriving in UMD’s unique combined program, for which she alternates three-month periods in the two fields, allowing her to see a wide array of patients, both young and old.
“Every day is different,” she said. “It’s like a puzzle that you have to figure out. There are some quiet days, but in the ED, there are also shifts when you have four codes come in at once. Sometimes you don’t have a break, but you don’t want a break. You just want to keep it going.”
Born and raised in Chile, Dr. Avendaño went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and neuroscience. She spent a year in the everyday workplace, but didn’t feel fulfilled. That prompted her to jump into medicine with both feet.
“I knew it would take a lot of hours and a lot of work, but I didn’t want to sit at a desk; I had to do something to help people,” Dr. Avendaño said.
She applied at once to St. George’s University, and was accepted to the January 2010 entering class. From the beginning, Dr. Avendaño was drawn to critical care, and joined SGU’s Emergency Medicine Club shortly upon arrival. In addition, she used her experience in neuroscience to tutor students through the Department of Educational Services. Dr. Avendaño also made the most of her leisure time, enjoying Grenada’s many beaches, and playing hockey soccer, and flag football, among other activities.
“My experience at SGU was wonderful,” she said. “The classes and the teachers were great, and it’s such a beautiful island. I met people from all over the world who have the same exact priorities that I did.”
The unique January start time proved beneficial as she continued her studies, giving her extra time to study for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step exams, as well as time to travel before entering residency.
Dr. Avendaño enjoyed SGU and the island so much that she has returned to Grenada four times since graduating to reconnect with former faculty and staff, including Assistant Dean of Students Duncan Kirkby, with whom she plays hockey, and SGU staffer and friend Molly Campbell. Additionally, Dr. Avendaño encouraged her brother, Javier, to enroll in SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. He is scheduled to graduate later this month and walk with his veterinarian cohort in New York City in June.
“SGU gave me all the qualities and resources I needed to get where I needed to be,” Dr. Avendaño said. “I would definitely recommend it.”