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Arnold School of Public Health

Burn recovery inspires medical career for public health graduate

May 20, 2022 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Gabriela Carrara was 13 when a cooking accident caused second- and third-degree burns that would lead to one surgery, nine days in the hospital and years of recovery. Nine years later, the public health graduate credits the healthcare she received and observed as the inspiration for her pursuit of a career in medicine.

“I became fascinated with my care team and the entire hospital system, particularly when I observed how they provided exceptional physical care and emotional support to my roommate, who had a genetic kidney disorder and experienced a surfing accident,” says the Sao Paulo, Brazil native, who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, but moved to Charleston, South Carolina for a fresh start during her recovery. “I was asking so many questions because I was curious about everything. It was the best shadowing I could have ever done.”

I’ve gotten a completely new perspective into medicine and healthcare and still was able to have the flexibility I needed to complete my pre-med requirements and fulfill my STEM interests.

-Gabriela Carrara, B.S. in Public Health 2022

That inquisitiveness continued when Carrara enrolled at UofSC. Knowing that she would eventually attend medical school, she decided to major in public health to learn more about the other aspects of health that had sparked her curiosity as a patient.

“I’ve always been interested in insurance, how doctor’s offices work and are managed, and the administrative side that we don’t get to see as much, so public health seemed like the best route,” Carrara says. “I’ve gotten a completely new perspective into medicine and healthcare and still was able to have the flexibility I needed to complete my pre-med requirements and fulfill my STEM interests.”

During her program, she found a mentor in her advisor, Morgan Collins, whose guidance was extremely influential to Carrara’s UofSC education and future plans. Outside of the Arnold School, she served as a peer tutor at the Student Success Center and a peer leader for University 101. Working with faculty in the psychology department (where she earned a minor), she conducted research into pediatric pain management for children with sickle cell disease.

It is very unique getting to interact with so many people of various interests, but all looking towards the same fundamental goal: bettering the health and quality of life of our communities.

-Gabriela Carrara, B.S. in Public Health 2022

Not long after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Carrara completed a certification in phlebotomy so she could help a local pediatric clinic as a medical assistant. Working at Sandhills Pediatrics for the past two years, she found a wonderful support system and first-hand experience with the clinical and policy aspects of the pandemic as they have unfolded in real-time. As a result of her experiences with Sandhills and at UofSC, Carrara is interested in advancing rural medicine and strategies to lower the infant mortality rate in South Carolina.

After graduating in May with Leadership Distinction in Professional and Civic Engagement, Carrara will complete a Master of Biomedical Science at Duke University before returning to South Carolina to attend the UofSC School of Medicine – Greenville.

“The Arnold School is very well-rounded, from students like me who want to become physicians, to future epidemiologists, speech-language pathologists, lawyers, physician assistants, health education specialists, nurses and so much more,” says Carrara, reflecting on her experiences over the past four years. “It is very unique getting to interact with so many people of various interests, but all looking towards the same fundamental goal: bettering the health and quality of life of our communities.”


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