After two years of traveling the world as an executive assistant to a Tibetan Lama and two semesters at a Buddhist university in Boulder, Benjamin Medrano decided he wanted a more traditional education. The 27-year-old Medrano transferred to CU Denver with little idea of what major to pursue.
He soon discovered his love for science and, the following summer, attended a pre-health program through the university. The experience not only set in stone his desire to go to medical school but also helped him see what was possible. “Before that, I still had a lot of doubts because, statistically, it looks really challenging getting in, but based on my connection with that program and my experience, I feel it’s more doable.”
Learning from life
Medrano is no stranger to road blocks. He grew up in a relatively poor family and relocated multiple times to neighborhoods with low-quality schools. He decided to earn his high school diploma through homeschooling. College seemed nearly impossible.
These days, though, the possibilities seem endless. When he’s not in class, working on a cardiovascular disease prevention study or volunteering to interview patients for prostate cancer research, he’s studying—an average of seven hours a day on weekends. But the secret to his 4.0 GPA isn’t just the hours; he uses meditation practices from his Buddhist faith to connect to the material. His mentor and inspiration, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, has taught him to open his mind and learn from every aspect of life. “Genuine inquisitiveness,” says Medrano, “has a lot to do with maintaining your inspiration in school. It has to be genuine.”
From student to teacher
Next summer, Medrano will join fellow students in another pre-health program–only this time, he will be teaching the pre-collegiate curriculum for inner-city high school students. He wants to help others with a similar background discover opportunities to excel. “If you have a mind that works and you just have confidence that you can do it and dedicate yourself to it, you can do it. Helping other people see that is really important to me.”