One thing that I can never deny is that I have been a very fortunate person.
I was born to a mother who strongly valued my education and always encouraged me to be involved in any opportunity that would broaden my views of the world and life experiences. I can't take credit for that - I was just lucky. Enrolling me in CEA was one of the most influential decisions she ever made on my behalf.
CEA is an amazing example of an institution in which experience meets academia. It is not just a school in which lessons are learned passively – it is a way of actively approaching life. The building houses rooms full of challenges for both sides of your brain. Those left-sided brainiacs get to challenge themselves with the high expectations and discipline that CEA demands; while the right-sided inventors have the chance to flourish in the creative outlets that are not only appreciated, but encouraged.
Here's the best part, CEA does not make you choose a side. This is what I've often times marveled at when I think of my upbringing at Conchita.
As a child, I had never really realized that my experience there was extraordinarily unique until I started meeting individuals who had never been exposed to that kind of environment. As a child, I would wonder in surprise...you mean your school doesn't have a music and dance conservatory? Even as an adult, I must remind myself that most people have never stood on a stage under the spotlights of a full theater. I don't mean this to say that I was naive to the hardships of others. I was well aware that my mother and father were working very hard to afford this type of experience for me. What I could never have imagined at the time, though, is how formative these moments would become.
I was asked to write a little bit about my professional career. After having graduated from Conchita Espinosa Academy in 1993, I went to Saint Brendan's High School. Having graduated in 1997, I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship to the University of Miami and completed a major in microbiology and immunology along with double minors in Spanish literature and chemistry. I graduated early with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Arts and Science in December 2000 and used the remainder of the year to both travel and gain work experience as a substitute teacher in the public school system.
I attended the University of Miami School of Medicine from 2001 through 2005. During my time in medical school, my interest was primarily in general surgery. However, by the end of my exposures to the different fields of medicine, I became very involved in women's health and pursued a career in obstetrics and gynecology. I continued my training at Emory University in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics in Atlanta, Georgia and completed residency training in 2009. Given my passion for surgery, I chose to further subspecialize in the field of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS). I was exceedingly fortunate to be accepted into the fellowship program at Duke University and graduated in 2012. I returned to South Florida for one year and practiced at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston before returning to Duke University, where I am now. I am currently one of five Urogynecologists in the FPMRS practice at Duke. I serve as faculty for the medical school and was recently named Assistant Program Director of the FPMRS fellowship program.
While the spotlights of the stage did not lead to a dance career, I'm under a different set of lights now - those of the operating room. These require just as much calm under pressure as the stage did. While it may not be obvious, I utilize the skills that I learned at CEA every day. The academic foundation is the most obvious skill that I draw from, but the more unique skills that truly stand out are those that I learned in the conservatory. In my professional career, I'm engaged in public speaking and placed in leadership roles – not because I am any more academically worthy than my colleagues, but because of the confidence and inspiration that I was granted from growing up among the arts.
Opportunities should never be wasted – and that is what Conchita Espinosa Academy offers: The opportunity to learn from formal academic training, the ability to engage in a flourishing artistic forum, and the gift of being surrounded by leaders who had the ingenuity and foresight to establish this institution and sustain its growth.