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Fresh Out Of Medical School, She Prepares To Go To COVID-19 Hot Spot

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

An uncertain time to begin a medical residency, especially if it's in a COVID-19 hot spot like New York's Presbyterian Hospital. But that's exactly where Daniella Concha will head at the end of the month. She's a first-generation college student, a member of the very first medical school class at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. We welcome her now.

Do I get to call you doctor?

DANIELLA CONCHA: Yes, officially, I am Dr.

SIMON: Well, Dr. Concha...

CONCHA: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...What a great pleasure to welcome you.

CONCHA: Thank you so much.

SIMON: I gather you're the youngest of six children and the first one who's been able to attend college. What do you feel like now?

CONCHA: Well, it's a surreal feeling, to say the very least. You know, my parents - they were really - their whole lives, basically, were agricultural workers. And my father is from Chihuahua, Mexico. And they really didn't get the chance to attend college. And most of my older siblings did the same for most of their lives. And they did teach me a lot, though. They always told me that it was important to educate myself and do my best in school, so I really took that as my first education. And right now, I really can't even describe in words how amazing this feels, that I get to be a role model for my 20 nieces and nephews and all of the people that are from the area that I grew up in.

SIMON: How does your family feel about you heading to New York right now?

CONCHA: Half of my older siblings actually live right next door to my parents. I can literally, like, walk to their house. Just cross the lawn, and then I'll be at my brother's and then at my sister's and then my other brother's. So they do feel a little strange with the sheer fact that I'm leaving Texas for New York City. That makes them nervous. And then, of course, it makes them even more nervous that I'm going during this time where all of this heartbreak is going on in the city. And they're slowly becoming, you know, very supportive with the idea that, you know, I'm going to go do something very meaningful.

SIMON: Well, without in any way underestimating what you're about to step into, you're beginning your medical career at the epicenter. I mean, what an opportunity to help people and to learn in the very first steps of your career.

CONCHA: That's correct. And I have to admit I am a bit nervous. But I feel that this is an extension of what I've been training for for a long time now. And, you know, residency in itself is really hard. But getting to start residency during this time is definitely going to be that much more challenging. But I will hopefully come out a better physician as a result of being pushed to my limits. And it's still, you know, very inspiring to get to start during a time where we are needed the most.

SIMON: Have any idea where you'd like your career to lead, where you want to wind up practicing?

CONCHA: Yeah, so definitely - you know, one thing that I like about New York City and specifically Washington Heights is that the population there is a very under - you know, vulnerable patient population. A lot of the people there are from Latinx countries and are Spanish-speaking. And it really does feel like a home away from home. So while I'm in residency, I'm really looking forward to take everything that I've learned from my own community and apply it there and get to connect with patients from different cultures and cultures similar to my own.

SIMON: Have you been to New York before?

CONCHA: I have. Yes, I have.

SIMON: Do you like bagels?

CONCHA: Oh, I love bagels. It's my weakness.

SIMON: All right, well, you and New York might like each other.

CONCHA: Yeah, we're going to be best friends (laughter).

SIMON: Medical school graduate, soon-to-be medical resident, Dr. Daniella Concha. Doctor, thank you so much for making the time for us.

CONCHA: Thank you so much. You know, I hear you say doctor, and it hasn't really sunk in, but, you know, I'm looking forward to accepting this responsibility. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.