Since she was young, Teresita Salas of Rio Rancho has set her own goals and set them high.
Today, at 15 years old, Salas is a member of the Junior ROTC color guard and drill team, plays in her schools orchestra, wears a black belt in karate and remains a straight-A student at Rio Rancho High School.
Salas also wants to become an emergency-room doctor.
“I’ve always wanted to put others before myself,” said Salas. “I guess it runs in the family.”
Based on these aspirations and her academic achievements, molecular geneticist Mario Capecchi nominated her to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders from June 25-27 in Lowell, Mass.
Salas joined thousands of other aspiring doctors from across the country to hear from 27 speakers ranging from Nobel Laureates to living medical miracles and teen medical-science prodigies.
She and her mother, Sandra Salas, agreed the speakers were helpful and both of them took away a lot from the congress.
“I for sure want to go into the medical field now,” said Salas.
Two other New Mexicans joined her at the congress.
Seventeen-year-old Dante Barton, a member of the Navajo Nation from Gallup, also represented New Mexico. Like Salas, he was motivated and inspired by the congress.
“It was very helpful because I was able to see firsthand that I can actually achieve my medical dreams,” he said.
Barton wants to become an anesthesiologist or an optometrist.
Salas has wanted to become an emergency-room doctor since she was 12 years old. She was inspired by the television show “Untold Stories of the E.R.” and her mother, who works as a nurse at the University of New Mexico Hospital.
She knows E.R. doctors are on their feet a lot and engage in quick-paced problem-solving.
According to Salas and her mother, the conference encouraged attendees to find out what they want to do.
“The speakers’ message was to write down the things that you love to do, that you’re passionate about, and then merge those things to one common goal,” said Salas’ mother.
Salas was moved by numerous speakers. She said her third-favorite speaker was high-performance coach Brendon Burchard, who spoke about fear as a barrier.
“If you get through your fear, there tends to be treasure at the end of it,” said Salas. “Don’t let fear stop you.”
Salas not only connected to the speakers but also to the students she sat among.
Her mother says her daughter met a 16-year-old named Allie from Maine who will be a lifelong friend.
“We had so many things in common, and we got along so well,” said Salas.
Salas said she is motivated to succeed by her parents, her sensei Yasuaki Nagatomo and by her 7-year-old sister, Maribella.
“I have to be a good example for my sister,” said Salas.