(PHOENIX – Dec. 1, 2021) – Born at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, a young Valley man is looking forward to his chance at making a difference back where it all began.
Earlier this fall, Nicholas Lopez started his first year of medical school at Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix in the School of Medicine, and in two short years, he will begin clinical rotation training at Valley hospitals and programs, including St. Joseph’s.
While graduation is still a few years away, Lopez is already thinking about his residency.
“It’s my dream to be a resident at St. Joseph’s,” he says. “It would be really special to finish my training in the hospital where I was born.”
Lopez, 23, who was born at St. Joseph’s in 1998 and whose mother has been a nurse at the historic hospital for nearly three decades, says proximity of Creighton’s health sciences campus was a major attraction.
“I love having the opportunity to stay close to my family,” he says. “There is nothing better than having their support as I start my journey through medical school.”
Lopez’s interest in helping others was instilled early. Raised in Ahwatukee, the Eagle Scout and future physician says he learned a lot when he was younger from spending time at community service events with his extended family who live in Douglas, Ariz.
“My Nana was once an immigrant, and I would help her pack up clothes and food to distribute within her community in Arizona and across the border. She always encouraged me to help in any way I could,” says Lopez. “I saw firsthand the difference between my suburban community and the way older generations of my family grew up.”
While pursuing his undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University, Lopez studied vaccine development aimed to decrease instances of cardiovascular disease and sexually transmitted diseases in Native American communities. He also worked as a medical examiner’s intern in Flagstaff where he observed some cases from the reservation, getting a closer look at the health care disparities these communities experience.
“It was disheartening to see the effects of chronic conditions that could have potentially been addressed with access to preventive care,” he says. “That solidified my interest in primary care and made me want to do whatever I can to help.”
Among his long term goals, Lopez says, is building a free clinic.
Lopez, who was elected as the Community Service Co-Chair for the medical campus’ Class of 2025, is the recipient of the first ever Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Executive Committee Scholarship. The scholarship is open to first year medical students of diverse backgrounds who are in good academic standing, demonstrate leadership and a commitment to community service, and are planning to attend Creighton University School of Medicine’s Phoenix Regional Campus.
“I chose Creighton because of its strong community values and commitment to making us the best physicians we can be,” says Lopez. “I’m so thankful to receive this scholarship. It makes a big difference, especially as I pursue my interest in primary care.”
Creighton University is the largest Catholic health professions educator in the United States, headquartered in Omaha, Neb. This year’s local medical cohort is the inaugural class in the school’s new Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Sciences Building located up the street from St. Joseph’s at Park Central in midtown Phoenix.
“We want to help meet the increasing demand for medical professionals in our community by building a body of providers at Creighton University who are mission aligned, reflect our communities, and are committed to serving the underserved,” says Claudia Chambers, MD, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Creighton University School of Medicine Phoenix Regional Campus and member of the medical staff at St. Joseph’s. “Health care disparities are ravaging the most vulnerable. Diverse health care workers bring the invaluable ability to provide care through the lens of their lived experience. This scholarship, initiated by St. Joseph’s president Gabrielle Finley-Hazle, is an initial step toward creating opportunity for diverse students to overcome the greatest deterrent to matriculation, cost I am looking forward to seeing how this scholarship expands the reach of Creighton in partnership with Dignity Health to serve those most in need.”