One of the first things you might notice about upcoming University of New Mexico graduate Tayler Suazo is her loyalty to place and to family. Graduating this fall with a Clauve Outstanding Senior Award and a bachelor’s of science in biology with a double minor in chemistry, and health medicine and human values, one might expect frequent and numerous parties and celebrations to be in order. Suazo, at the time of her interview with the Daily Lobo, however, is back with family in her hometown of Abiquiu: a small town in northern New Mexico.
It was here that Suazo first realized she wanted to be a doctor — and she knew she wanted to stay in New Mexico to do it.
“I knew since I was young that I had wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. I wanted to stay in-state to be with family and of course (to) get in-state tuition because I don't have all the money in the world to pay for tuition. So, I wanted to stay in-state and I knew UNM had a medical school, so I knew my best chances of getting into UNM Medical School was to go to UNM for undergrad,” Suazo said.
Upon being admitted to UNM, Suazo received a slew of scholarships: the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Loyalty Award, the Jemez Mountain Cooperative scholarship, the El Centro Family Health Board scholarship and the UNM Scholars scholarship.
Most notably, Suazo is a Los Alamos National Laboratories scholar, something that not only afforded Suazo a scholarship, but a community as well through various events, mentoring opportunities and the other LANL scholars at UNM. Suazo would later go on to become a LANL ambassador her junior year of college, mentoring younger LANL scholars with their classes and hosting events.
Throughout her freshman and sophomore year of college, though, Suazo focused primarily on her academics, largely due to the transition from a small high school to a public university. That being said, she still found ways to get involved on campus.
“I really stuck to my academics during my first couple of semesters; my campus involvement was always going to CAPS tutoring and Supplemental Instruction sessions, just making sure that I ended up with a good GPA after every semester. Especially ‘cause I knew I wanted to go to med school. By getting a good GPA, I was enlisted into the Pi Eta Sigma Freshman Honor Society. And that's kind of what started my campus involvement,” Suazo said.
After her selection to Pi Eta Sigma and appointance as a LANL ambassador, Suazo would also be tapped for the Mortar Board Honor Society. She recounted the moment and how it led to her meeting current Associated Students at UNM vice president, fellow LANL scholar and Mortar Board member, classmate and friend Krystah Pacheco.
“We were in the same position. We really didn't know anybody, and she was super friendly. I think that was one of the first things I really liked about Tayler. And she's also very approachable. That was probably one of the first things that I (could) really recognize when we first met,” Pacheco said.
Throughout the course of Suazo’s senior year, her and Pacheco’s friendship would develop through their collaboration in Mortar Board as well as through their shared class.
“It's more like the interactions that came through Mortar Board, where we continued to see each other. And then we also had a class together this semester, and she sat right in front of me,” Pacheco said. “So, seeing her twice a week, we always had conversations about the class, her goals for medical school and the status on her applying. So, it was through those small interactions where we continued to learn more about each other.”
Pacheco’s favorite memory of their friendship was when Suazo told her that she had been accepted into medical school. The excitement of the moment was certainly a factor, but for Pacheco, it was more memorable because of how that moment reflected who Suazo is: humble, hard-working and ambitious.
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Suazo will first be completing a six-month internship with Los Alamos National Laboratories before officially starting medical school next July. Upon completion of medical school and her subsequent residency requirements, Suazo plans to return to Abiquiu to become a primary care doctor.
“We definitely need doctors up here, and we don’t really need a lot of specialities. We need primary care doctors who are gonna see people on a regular basis for their chronic health concerns,” Suazo said.
Future goals aside, Suazo still acknowledged the “amazing feeling” of getting this far, emphasizing the work it took to get her here and what she’ll miss on her way out.
“It's bittersweet; I will miss all my campus involvement. But it's amazing. I look back and, coming from such a small town, getting a bachelor's degree is almost unattainable to some students. And the fact that I am finishing it, not only early, but Summa Cum Laude with good standing, it just makes me proud of what my community has produced in a sense,” Suazo said. “It takes a village to raise a child, and my family has done an incredible job of always supporting education. Just to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to know that I got accepted to med school — it's an amazing feeling.”
John Scott is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JohnSnott