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Black & Gold Anatomy: from serving, to surgery

Being a student-athlete requires hours upon hours of commitment throughout the school year. From weightlifting, to practice, to game day, it takes a large amount of focus to balance the demands of athletics and academics. With any major, being a student-athlete requires time management skills and an impressive work ethic. But, with aspirations to become a surgeon and a major in biology, it is an especially tough journey.

This is the journey that UMBC volleyball’s sophomore-middle blocker Becca Elrod and freshman-outside hitter Gabrielle Curran have chosen to embark on. One day, after a hard-fought inter-squad game that capped off a Wednesday evening practice, Elrod and Curran sat down to reflect on their respective journeys.

The pair chose UMBC for different reasons, but their paths have coincidentally converged and are heading in a similar direction. Curran chose to attend UMBC because her mother was a graduate of the university. According to Curran, UMBC “wasn’t on [her] volleyball list,” but she chose the university because of the exemplary STEM programs. For Curran, volleyball was the driving force for her choice in attending UMBC, but she did note that the prestigious academics of the university aided in her decision.

Though the pair is in the early stages of their college careers, they have already started focusing on their next step. Elrod is looking to go to med school in the South, with hopes of going to either Vanderbilt, UT or Rice. But she noted that “any med school I could get into I would be thrilled, just [for] the opportunity to be in med school.” For Curran, her dream is to go to the University of Pennsylvania because of their rich background in orthopedic surgery, and she aspires to follow in the footsteps of Dr. James Guerra of her hometown in Naples, FL who has served as her role model in recent years.

Many people aspire to become doctors as kids, but very few actually pursue that dream. But, Elrod and Curran are committed to excellence and ready to thrive. “I’ve had injuries in sports and I’ve always been in the orthopedic surgeon’s office,” said Curran. “I would always put up x-rays and Dr. James Guerra would analyze them.” Curran is aware that there are not many women in the orthopedic surgery field, and she is determined to surpass those boundaries.

For Elrod, she recalled a time when she was a child and her mother brought her to a “take your daughter to work day.” Elrod’s mother was a nurse, and Elrod was immediately infatuated with the concept of surgery. In her sophomore year of high school, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and, after shadowing one of the surgeries, she was fueled to go on and pursue her dream of being a surgeon. But, she does note that oncology is difficult to deal with emotionally, and so she remains indecisive on what surgical specialty that she wants to pursue.

Life for Elrod and Curran can be difficult at times, as they are both pursuing biology majors and psychology minors. For Elrod, the beginning of her freshman year was particularly difficult. The workload was slightly overwhelming, and balancing athletics and academics proved to be more difficult than she could have imagined. But, through trials and tribulations, she noted that time management is a necessity for survival. Being proactive and studying during free time, instead of procrastinating, proved to make things much more manageable for her. But, there is no perfect formula and sometimes she still struggles in class due to lack of energy, so she plans ahead as much as possible to prevent herself from falling too far behind.

The pair noted that they were partially inspired in their journey through watching medical dramas over the year. Elrod excitedly referenced “Grey’s Anatomy” as one of her favorite shows, despite the tragic death of her favorite character Mark Sloan. For Curran, classics like General Hospital were particularly entertaining. “[They] just get you in the mood to be a doctor,” said Curran.

With Elrod being one year ahead of Curran, she has served as a mentor through Curran’s first few months at UMBC. “She has really been there for me,” said Curran. “She’s really been helping me in chemistry with notes and stuff.” Every Wednesday, Elrod assists Curran in going over notes before her chemistry quizzes. Curran beamed at Elrod and noted, “I am so thankful for her,” and with a laugh, Elrod responded, “aw, that was so cute.”