Triple graduate on road to fulfill dream of becoming a doctor

Erica Olson graduated from UA Little Rock with three bachelor's degrees and has been accepted to UAMS. Photo by Ben Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock senior who graduated with three bachelor’s degrees has been accepted to medical school and is on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor. 

Erica Olson, of Gassville, Arkansas, graduated from UA Little Rock on May 11 with bachelor’s degrees in biology, chemistry, and Spanish. The budding doctor, who received a $7,500 Class of 1954 Scholarship from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, will begin taking classes at UAMS in the fall with plans to become a family physician.

“It has been my dream for almost a decade that I would like to become a family physician,” Olson said. “Everyone is excited about specializing in surgical processes, but for me, I like the appeal of growing with the patients. I like the consistency of establishing bonds and being able to work with people throughout their life and their children’s lives. I’m open to looking at other specialties in medical school, but I think that is where my heart lies.”

After graduating high school with just 40 people in her senior class, Olson was excited to see what the world had to offer.

“I was naturally excited to get out of the rural area and explore what else the world had to offer,” she said. “I knew UA Little Rock had a lot of scholarships available, and I remembered visiting this campus during seventh grade, walking down the brick pathways, and finding it beautiful. After I was accepted into the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps, I was very glad I decided to attend UA Little Rock. My mom is a single mom who works as a waitress, and she did a great job of providing for me. We’ve experienced financial hardships, and getting to graduate debt free is a privilege.”

While at UA Little Rock, Olson joined the University Science Scholars Program, Biology Club, American Chemical Society, Wesley Foundation, Wind Ensemble, and became a student ambassador for the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences. She worked as a resident assistant for UA Little Rock, a research assistant for the UAMS Emergency Department, and volunteered in the Intensive Care Unit at UAMS.

Olson is also dedicated to helping other students get a head start in their careers. In 2017, she founded the university’s Pre-Health Club for students planning to work in the health industry as doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, pharmacists, and physician’s assistants.

During summer 2017, Olson had an experience that altered her plans. She studied abroad in Spain, taking a one-week trip to Madrid with Dr. Edna Delgado, professor of Spanish, followed by a month living with a host family while taking classes at the University of Granada. Originally set to graduate in 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology, Olson delayed graduation for a year so she could spend the fall 2018 studying in Spain. It also gave Olson the time to earn a third bachelor’s degree in Spanish.

“At first, I just wanted to learn Spanish to have a baseline because it’s the second most spoken language in the U.S.,” she said. “As a future physician, I want to be able to communicate with my Spanish-speaking patients. If you don’t speak the language, you feel isolated and alone. I knew this is what my patients who couldn’t speak English would feel. I planned to apply to medical school a year ago, but I didn’t want to go with any regrets.”

Olson owes much of her success to the biology and chemistry faculty members at UA Little Rock, especially those who helped her prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

“I adore both the chemistry and biology department faculty. I’ve had incredible experiences with the faculty,” she said. “They challenge you, and that in turn makes you a better student. With regards to chemistry, to me that was the most challenging discipline I chose. While I did not make an A in every single chemistry course, it helped me to succeed in the real world because I scored in the 92 percentile on my MCAT. Both departments really care about your success.”

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