Scholar of the Week

Shalila de Bourmont
University of California, San Fransisco

Since she was a little girl, Shalila de Bourmont has always wanted to help people in need, family and strangers alike. Through her continued dedication to helping those in need of assistance, Shalila joins the inaugural class of the Great Minds in STEM California Medical Scholars and was awarded the Dr. James A. Lemus Scholarship in 2019. Shalila is pursuing a Doctor of Medicine Program at the University of California, San Fransisco (UCSF) with an expected graduation of May 2023.

Shalila’s life values are based on her family’s Colombian roots. Her grandmother became the primary breadwinner at age 16 after her family fell into poverty during difficult economic times. Despite the hardship, Shalila’s grandmother upheld the values of charity and empathy that would be passed down to future generations. Her grandfather instilled in her the value of the pursuit of knowledge as a means of liberation from hardship. Shalila learned that “poverty does not necessitate a scarcity mindset.”

Shalila’s family moved to Hilo, Hawaii, when she was 7 years old after her stepfather was offered a physics professor position at a local college. Though Hilo was a humble town, its community was strong through its support networks of neighbors who helped individuals in need. By witnessing these social systems first-hand, Shalila understood the importance of reciprocity, stating, “The individual ensures the long-term success of the community by expanding ties, and in turn, the community supports the individual through these networks”.

Upon graduation from high school, Shalila attended Yale University and felt that a college’s academic setting differed from the community to which she was accustomed. Seeking to understand more about communities and their cultures, she participated in a study abroad experience in Thailand and learned about the incredible selflessness of its people without expectations of reciprocity. Upon her return, Shalila decided to adopt this outlook and to pursue a career in medicine for the benefit of others. After graduating in 2016 Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Sciences in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Shalila found ways to give to others, returning to Thailand for a year to teach English, and serving as an AmeriCorps Health Educator in Berkeley, California.

Shalila began working as a Research Analyst at UCSF in 2018, enrolling in the Doctor of Medicine Program shortly thereafter. Though originally studying general medicine, Shalila was compelled to focus on geriatrics when she witnessed the difference between Colombian and American approaches to elderly care by way of her grandmother’s then-advanced Alzheimer’s. Shalila shared that in Colombia her grandmother found peace and recuperation at home surrounded by attentive therapists and family, in contrast to the social exclusion sometimes faced by the elderly in the United States.

Compelled by her values given to her by her elders, Shalila seeks to advance geriatric medicine by combating social stigmas and improving healthcare for older adults in the US. For her tireless effort to help those in need and her boundless generosity, GMiS is proud to recognize Shalila as Scholar of the Week and encourages others to follow her exemplary efforts.

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