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Julia Zavala standing in front of purple backdrop.

Biology senior awarded Gilman Scholarship to pursue pre-med internship in Argentina

By Srila Nayak
Julia Zavala, who is pursuing her undergraduate studies in biology and psychology, has received the prestigious Gilman Scholarship to intern in Argentina.

Julia Zavala is one of seven undergraduate students at Oregon State University to have been awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship during the 2020-2021 academic year. A senior in honors biology with a concentration in pre-medicine, Zavala will undertake a pre-medical internship in Cordoba, Argentina, for a duration of 10 weeks during summer 2021.  Zavala is also pursuing a minor in psychology and currently chairs the OSU Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS).

Taryn Jacobsen, a senior majoring in biohealth sciences, has been selected as an alternate for the scholarship. Being an alternate means she could still be awarded a Gilman Scholarship if a slot opens up.

“The Gilman has become more competitive in recent years, but our students have consistently earned scholarships above the national success rate.” -LeAnn Adam

The highly competitive and prestigious Gilman Scholarship is awarded by the U.S. Department of State to  approximately 25% of applicants. The award enables qualified students to gain proficiency in diverse languages and cultures, skills that are critically important to their academic and career development. Over 3,600 scholarships of up to $5000 were awarded this academic year for undergraduates to study or intern abroad.  

Oregon State enjoys the distinction of being a top producer of Gilman Scholars. With seven honorees, OSU continues its trend of having students accepted at or greater than the national rate of 25%.

“The Gilman has become more competitive in recent years, but our students have consistently earned scholarships above the national success rate,” said LeAnn Adam, Coordinator of National and Global Scholarships Advising at OSU.

While Zavala has many accomplishments to her credit, her role as president of MAPS is particularly noteworthy. The club, founded in 2016, offers a variety of ways to support minority premedical students and has a mentorship program to help underrepresented students succeed in medicine.

A  first-generation college student with strong family ties to Mexico, Zavala is also co-chair of the OSU chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil de Aztlán, a U.S. based Chicano youth organization. Hailing from Tigard, Oregon, Zavala spent four years living with family in Mexico from 7th grade to her sophomore year of high school. During that time, she volunteered in hospitals and with end-of-life care, witnessing the challenges that a lack of medical care poses to many in underserved communities.

Zavala chose to pursue her pre-med internship in Argentina to gain a global perspective on healthcare as a future medical practitioner. In Cordoba, Zavala will have an opportunity to rotate in several clinics and hospitals where she will witness government efforts to provide universal coverage to the Argentinian population.

Examples of possible clinical rotations include: pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, psychology, cardiology, internal medicine, speech therapy, neurology, surgery, public health outreach and education campaigns, social services, and more. The program also includes 75 hours of Spanish language lessons.

The Gilman Scholarship supports undergraduate students who have high financial need and students populations who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited first-generation college students, students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, students attending HBCUs and others.

OSU press release: Seven Oregon State University students receive Gilman Scholarships to study abroad