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Medical Student Angelica Lopez stands in the courtyard outside Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Faces & Voices of Rutgers: Angelica Lopez

Whether it was idolizing her pulmonologist uncle in the family’s native Dominican Republic as a young child or advocating for her parents during doctors’ visits in the South Bronx as a teenager, Angelica Lopez can trace her “why” for wanting to become a physician to family.

“I have these vivid memories of my uncle’s commitment to service, when he was willing to stop everything and serve the people of his community,” said Lopez. “I think that has always impacted me.”

That impact drove Lopez to win a scholarship to St. Jean Baptiste High School in Manhattan and to earn bachelor’s degrees from Barnard College of Columbia University and Hunter College. Afterward, she spent several years working on clinical research projects on lung disease, bone fractures, and health care disparities.

Her father’s passing during a heart procedure, however, provided Lopez with the definition of purpose to not only solidify her aspiration to become a doctor at New Jersey Medical School, but to serve a larger mission of support for underserved communities through medicine.

“It opened my eyes in a different way,” said Lopez. “It made me want to hit the ground running.”

President Jonathan Holloway sat down with Lopez in a lecture hall at the Medical Science Building at Rutgers University-Newark for a discussion about her personal journey. Among the topics was her demanding academic schedule, which is often supplemented with community outreach initiatives.

“If I don’t have that on the side, it’s easy to forget why I’m here, why I’m doing this, and why I’m working hard every day and spending 12 to 16 hours studying,” Lopez said. “When I’m able to do those things, I’m reminded of why I’m here and why there’s a need for more students like me, to be here.”