Alumni Profile: April Soto, M.D.
"Daughter of Missionaries Navigates Her Way into Medical Practice"
April Soto was born into a family dedicated to public service. April’s father was born in Puerto Rico and raised in California, and her mother, also of Puerto Rican descent, was born in New York. Both had some college education and her father was trained as an electrician.
Before Soto was born, her parents moved to Guatemala to work as missionaries. Their only source of income was donations from the community where they conducted their missionary work. They had barely enough money to survive, but their dedication to serving their community was enough to keep the family going. April was 12 when her mother died.
Soto says she always knew she wanted to go to college. She attended Bakersfield Community College and had to work several jobs at once in order to survive.
“I applied for anything I could find, from working as a live-in maid to waiting on tables at restaurants,” she said. She eventually was able to transfer to California State University, Bakersfield, to pursue a four-year degree.
“I imagined myself as a physical therapist or a dental hygienist,” she said. But she decided to raise the bar and applied to medical school. She was accepted to the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.
Soto knew firsthand the importance of receiving good medical care. She has severe asthma, and San Francisco’s climate made her affliction so disabling that “medical school was a real struggle,” she said.
Money continued to be her largest obstacle. She says, “The difference between me and 98 percent of the rest of medical school students is that everyone else supplemented their financial aid with family support. I had no extra help, and in medical school it simply is not possible to work. I couldn’t do it.”
Soto credits the scholarships she received from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for keeping her healthy enough to complete medical school. The scholarship money paid for her asthma medications as well as her textbooks and medical equipment.
She shares her parents’ ethical goals. She now has a family practice in East Los Angeles, in what she terms “high gang territory. Most of my patients are Latino, mostly poor and many without insurance,” she says.
Soto’s decision to raise the bar for herself and apply to medical school is not uncommon among HSF Scholars for whom our support often creates a renewed confidence. Our goal is to inspire more students to follow in her footsteps and commit themselves to helping this country meet the challenges it faces in the coming decades.
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