Starting at a young age, Denise Quintanilla, who is now a second-year student at the University of Minnesota Medical School, could hold her own in a clinical environment. 

When Quintanilla’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico and El Salvador, they were not fluent in English. Quintanilla followed them as a translator, bridging the gaps to support her family. It was throughout several medical visits with her family that she learned that it was where she belonged.

“I remember being a kid and thinking, ‘It would be so nice if there were providers like us, so then I wouldn't have to go and interpret for them,’” Quintanilla said. “I would be able to just, you know, be a kid. But I also really enjoyed being in that medical setting when I would go in to interpret. It was kind of like a double-edged sword.”

As Quintanilla grew up, she continued to develop a passion for addressing the lack of representation in medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota and then proceeded to get her master’s in public health at the U of M as well.

“What initially drew me to the University of Minnesota was my family,” Quintanilla said. “I chose to stay close by because I would be able to still advocate for my family in whatever setting they needed as well as get a good medical education.”

When Quintanilla was deciding where to go for medical school, she chose to stay at the U of M once again. This time, the family medicine program was a driving influence in her decision. Though she is still unsure of her speciality, family medicine is a top contender. 

Quintanilla is the class president and the Latino Medical Student Association president. With her busy schedule, she is grateful that the University has connected her with so many scholarship opportunities. 

Most notably, Quintanilla is a recipient of the Karleen Scholarship.

“The Karleen Scholarship is centered primarily on how you plan to give back to your community,” Quintanilla said. “I remember I specifically talked about how I’m interested in family medicine. I specifically want to work in underserved populations. I’d love to work with all populations, but my strengths would lie with the Latinx population.”

She also dreams of opening her own free clinic someday.

As Quintanilla perseveres throughout her second year of medical school, she is grateful that her scholarships have allowed her to continue pursuing her passions and stay close to her family.  

To make a gift to scholarships like this, join the U of M Medical School on Nov. 18 in celebrating Give to the Max Day. The festive recognition of the generosity and support from donors is also a chance for alumni and community members to give to their program of choice, including the Future Physicians Scholarship Fund.