AlumKnight Spotlight – November 2023

November 2023 Spotlight: Natalie Martinez

Natalie Martinez (Class of ’21), University of Florida, Graduating in 2025

Degree: Health Science with a minor in Spanish

Career Goals: After graduating from UF, I’m anticipating taking a gap year in order to gain clinical experience before applying to PA school. I’ve wanted to be a Physician’s Assistant for a couple of years now, and most recently I’ve found myself wanting to specialize in Plastic Surgery or Dermatology. One of the beautiful things about being a PA is the flexibility within the profession, where I’m able to switch specialties throughout the length of my career. I love medicine, as well as advocating for patients and making sure their health is my priority.

What has been the biggest surprise about the college experience? When I was deciding on a school to attend during my senior year, one of the most important factors that led me to UF was the community. Although Gainesville is home to more than 34,000 undergraduate students, the close-knit family that this school fosters goes beyond your four years and the tiny college town. Whether it’s wearing a UF hoodie in another country and hearing someone chant, “Go Gators,” as they walk past you or joining together for a football game at the swamp, I couldn’t have ever imagined the love and pride we all share. Gator pride is SO strong, it’s the best!

Most challenging coursework in college: Organic chemistry 1…and organic chemistry 2… Orgo is infamously known and for good reason. Honestly, it was definitely the most challenging semesters I had to endure, and it instilled so much doubt in my head as to whether I was good enough to overcome it and embark on a journey in the medical field. After many sleepless nights, countless office hours, and some tears, it’s 100% possible to overcome. The class probably taught me more about how important it is to take care of myself, prevent burnout, and overcome challenges than synthesis and ozonolysis, but the lessons were just as valuable.

Accomplishment most proud of: I’m currently a member of a club at UF called Footprints, where I volunteer each week at the Pediatric Oncology and Hematology unit at our hospital. Our motto is “Letting Kids be Kids” and my role is to play with them, hang out, and offer any kind of relief I can in their situation. I’m also a mentor for a mentorship program within the College of Public Health and Health Professions, where I currently help my mentee who’s a freshman navigate this new world at UF and acclimate. I’m also the Marketing Director for the Cuban-American Student Association, or CASA for short. I’m also involved in Greek Life as a member of Kappa Alpha Theta! This past summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain, which was probably the peak of my life so far. Next spring break I’m taking a mission trip to Costa Rica with other pre-PA students to offer clinical care to underserved areas!

Can you provide any advice to our current Knights? Enjoy every step of the journey! You’ll probably spend a good majority of high school wishing to be a senior. Once you get there, you’re going to want it to be Gradbash season and Prom. Then, you’ll probably say “I can’t wait for graduation.” Remember that you’re living in a point in time that you used to wish for. While it can seem enticing to want the next thing, take a moment and soak up every opportunity you have with your friends, family, and teachers. You will never get those days back!

I paid for college with…: Bright Futures pays for 100% of my tuition. I also get reimbursed through Pell Grant, and Florida Prepaid reimbursed the same amount of my tuition each semester. The amount of money I get back fluctuates depending how many credit hours I’m taking but it’s usually around $6k a semester which I use for dues and rent.

Fondest memory from high school: Nothing I miss more than hanging out with everyone in all our classes, especially in Mr. Milian’s and Mr. Dean’s. All the teachers genuinely care so much about their students and MAST will always hold some of the most fond memories of my childhood <3