2ND ANNUAL GALORATH SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY WINNER – AARON BAUTISTA

Aaron Bautista was announced as the winner of the Galorath Annual College Student Scholarship Essay Contest,   which saw an increase of applications from almost 500 in the previous year to nearly 3,000. We wish him every success as he pursues his education to become a physician. Here is his winning essay entry:

When I was five, my grandparents would sneak me coffee instead of apple juice, telling my parents that I was “old enough.” We collected mail together, and I helped run their garage sales on Saturdays. But when my grandpa was diagnosed with brain cancer, everything changed. His frequent headaches meant he couldn’t come home, so we went to the hospital instead. My mom and I saw my grandpa in his coma and held hands as we cried. She didn’t speak, but I almost did. Until I realized that speaking wouldn’t change anything.

A few years later, at age 14, the feeling of helplessness still haunted me. I started volunteering at Kaiser Permanente because I knew that even if I couldn’t change things for myself, I could make a difference in other people’s lives. At Kaiser, I realized that every subtle choice can help mend someone’s pain, like how the simple act of handing a sticker to a sick child can reassure them. Like how talking to patients can make them smile and bring courage in a stressful time. Like how reading stories to toddlers can help them find comfort before heading to face their medical realities. I was the bridge in a network of doctors, nurses, and patients, doing my best to support them all. I wanted to empower people that felt the same way I did when my grandpa was in the hospital, and found that when I volunteer, I no longer feel helpless. I feel strong.

I’m 19 now, and my desire to help others has grown beyond the hospital. I now collaborate with 150 premed students as a social ambassador on “Morning Sign-Out,” a biomedical blog that works to bridge the gap between the medical community and the general public. Our blog covers the latest news in public health policy, healthcare, and medicine, while providing insight on the premed track. We especially strive to make new research understandable for our readers by explaining findings clearly, without the academic jargon usually found in medical journals. We’re revolutionizing the way people access this information because we understand that while speaking won’t change anything, spreading awareness will.

In 10 years from now, I hope to not only dedicate myself to raising awareness on medical research, but also to improving healthcare quality. It'll start with school organizations dedicated to improving healthcare, as well as humanitarian organizations full of patient rights activists. I’ll volunteer at the school’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center and walk the streets of Los Angeles to arrange public health conferences that’ll be accessible to all. While I can't change the social conditions that people are born into, I hope to change how healthcare systems respond. I want people to know a different kind of healthcare: one that bridges care at home and care at the hospital. Doctors don’t always realize the importance of social factors when treating a patient—after all, medicine cures disease, but not unsafe housing conditions and food shortages. I want to restructure healthcare systems so that people receive the medical and social support they need.

Despite my struggles—or perhaps because of them—I’ve gained an increased sense of self-worth that will help me in becoming a physician. The same powerlessness that began my wars has also ended them. After all, it is because of my speechless five-year-old self that I chose to volunteer and become a medical writer. What I’ve learned through my work will help me continue to honor lives, save generations, and fight diseases—one sticker and one article at a time.

If you are interested in becoming our next essay scholarship winner, please visit our scholarship page and see the details for submission.