For Luisa Fernandez, her experience at Wake Forest is best summed up by one word: balance.
During her four years, she juggled the demands of her pre-health major while competing on the varsity women’s tennis team and also taking part in multiple extracurricular activities all centered on the idea of giving back to the community.
Growing up in Mexico, Fernandez was exposed to a lot of disparities in healthcare coverage first hand. This is what initially inspired her to want to pursue a career in health. After organic chemistry deterred her from pursuing a chemistry major, Fernandez found herself falling in love with the holistic nature of the Health and Exercise Science (HES) major.
“I wanted to find a major that would help me have the expertise to treat and provide healthcare for underprivileged individuals,” Fernandez said. “HES provides us with practical skills and tools that help us understand why we are going into healthcare and how to treat our patients. We don’t only focus on treatment, but we also focus on prevention and the mental aspect of health.”
For her honors work, Fernandez examined the relationship of self-efficacy, the belief in your ability to organize resources and complete tasks towards your desired outcome, and metabolic syndrome markers in diabetes diagnosis within the Latino population. She assisted on a randomized controlled trial that analyzed the impact of a community-based diabetes prevention program.
“Luisa’s academic achievement is clear and extremely impressive, particularly in light of her participation in varsity tennis,” said Jeffrey Katula, Fernandez’s honors adviser. “However, what makes Luisa truly exceptional is her limitless engagement, enthusiasm and joy with her academic work and research. In class, she sat on the front row and was consistently engaged in all classroom activities. She came to our weekly research meetings with a bright smile and genuinely and sincerely looked forward to learning more about the research process in general and her project in particular. Science is a word filled with skepticism, if not cynicism, and Luisa brought a refreshing sense of sincerity and joy to the process.”
As both a student and an athlete, Fernandez found her major to also be helpful in her different roles on campus. As a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Fernandez started the CPR Training Day that will now take place annually and she said the courses she took in nutrition, anatomy and exercise physiology also all allowed her to help encourage her teammates to stay physically well. Her coach attested to her positive contributions both on and off the tennis court.
“Luisa has truly been as exceptional a student at Wake Forest as one can be,” said Jeffrey Wyshner, head coach of the Women’s Tennis Team. “She has performed in the classroom at the very highest level, she has been a major contributor for all four years to the tennis program, which has returned to the top tier of college tennis during her tenure here, and she has also contributed hundreds of hours to helping others. It is incredible to see someone take such full advantage of the incredible opportunities that Wake Forest has to offer, and Wake Forest’s entire community is better for having had Luisa be part of it the past four years.”
After graduation, Fernandez will work as a data collector and recruiter for the Public Health Services in Winston-Salem. She recently was awarded the ACC Post Graduate Scholarship Award that she is hoping to use towards PA school in the future.