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Fred Gonzales

Match Day 2019

Fred Gonzales grew up watching his grandmother try to manage her diabetes. She monitored her weight and glucose levels, but as her condition worsened, she entered dialysis and eventually died from effects of the disease.

“Watching her I became curious about the human condition and how medicine tries to intervene to help people,” he said. “That made me want to investigate health conditions more thoroughly.”

He remained interested in medicine through high school in Colorado Springs and entered Cornell University as a biology major, despite choosing the school based on its architecture program.

“I still found architecture compelling, but at the last minute I switched to biology because I was still intrigued by it. I liked how it caters to natural systems and how they work.”

Cornell was a good choice for Gonzales. After the boundless sunshine of Colorado, he appreciated New York’s overcast weather. He found a fit culturally, too.

For the first two years, he lived in a dormitory that housed 35 students of American Indian heritage.

“I always identified as Native American through my mother,” who traces her family to Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico, he said. “But this was a great exploration in self-identity.”

He became involved in extracurricular activities including tutoring at a high school where many students are American Indian and spending time on reservations in the area. He helped organize an annual powwow as well as smaller events including drum circles and hide tanning. In a fry bread competition in 2010, Gonzales won first place in the expert category.

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in biology, health and society, Gonzales returned to Colorado to polish his resume to apply to medical school. He spent year in a call center and couple years as a marketing supervisor at Quasar Instruments, a startup medical equipment supplier, before entering the Master of Science in Modern Human Anatomy program at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. From there he joined the CU School of Medicine.

While in the master’s program, he became involved in planning for the DAWN Clinic, a student-run free clinic for uninsured adults in Aurora that opened in 2015.

“It’s incredible how much it has evolved in four years. There was a steep learning curve to figure out how we organize and operate, and how we could build those community networks. It’s become smoother, and we’ve expanded the specialties that are allowed to have at the clinic.”

Gonzales, an inductee into the Gold Humanism Society and a member of the School of Medicine Diversity Council, volunteered with DAWN as a medical student, and learned to appreciate the clinic’s interprofessional approach to health care.

“For example, there are very few opportunities to work with occupational therapists and get to see their approach to patient care through their lens,” he said. “As a medical professional, I need to know what they are doing and how they look at patients so I know when it’s appropriate to refer patients to them.”

In his fourth year of medical school, Gonzales, 31, has become active in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activities. At the DAWN Clinic he has helped organize a monthly multi-disciplinary clinic for LGBT patients. He and a second-year student have organized a Prism chapter for LGBT medical students.

Gonzales will serve his surgical residency at University of Colorado School of Medicine.