She was raised by two physicians – her mother is a psychiatrist and her father a neurologist – so medicine has always been part of her life. She recalls spending days as a child in her parents’ clinical offices and discussing interesting cases around the dinner table.

She considered other careers, including teaching and social work. But before she started college, she spent a summer working in a lab at Tufts University. Then she knew that medicine would be her path.

“I kept coming back to medicine, especially public health, because it fulfilled what I really wanted to do,” she says.

Busy Beginning

Rawlins-Pilgrim wasted no time getting started with her education. While earning her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and fulfilling her premed requirements at Yale University, she worked at an HIV/AIDS residential treatment facility, was a volunteer and interpreter at the student-run HAVEN Free Clinic, and served as director of AIDS Walk New Haven. She also joined an exchange program that took her to Santiago, Chile, for a semester and another exchange with the HIV/AIDS branch of the Hong Kong Department of Health.

After this ambitious beginning, she needed a very special place to earn her medical degree. She applied to numerous medical schools across the country but appreciated UCSF’s focus on caring for the underserved.

PRIMEd for Success

The highlight of her experience at UCSF, she says, was participating in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US), a five-year program that prepares medical students from diverse backgrounds to provide health care for vulnerable urban populations.

“PRIME was filled with like-minded people,” she says. “I formed lasting, supportive friendships and found some incredible mentors.” She still turns for guidance to PRIME-US Mentorship Director Elisabeth Wilson, MD, MPH, and HIV specialist Peter Hunt, MD, both resident alumni.

Now back in her hometown for an internal medicine residency at Boston Medical Center, she also plans to enroll in a master of public health program.

“I’m still at the beginning of a long road,” she says. “It’s exciting, but I’m humbled by all the things I don’t know.”

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